NBA free agent Enes Kanter Freedom told Newsmax that while he feels for Brittney Griner's situation, he does not think the United States should trade her for the long-held Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as "The Merchant of Death."
Griner, the WNBA star recently convicted on drug charges in Russia for having a small amount of cannabis in a vaping tube, was sentenced to nine years at a Russian penal colony. The United States is negotiating to trade her and American Paul Whelan for Bout and another Russian.
"You know, I've been following her case very closely and I feel for her," Freedom said Tuesday on "The Record With Greta Van Susteren."
Freedom said he was "heartbroken" over Griner's situation, but added that "people need to understand, the White House needs to understand, we are trying to trade her with someone who is responsible for thousands of lives and who some other selling illegal weapons in Africa and Asia. And we cannot be trading her with that horrible person and at the end of the day."
Freedom was born Enes Kanter in Switzerland to Turkish parents. He said in 2018 that he couldn't return to his native country because of his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He became a U.S. citizen in 2021 and added Freedom as his last name.
He said last week he has been "blackballed" by the NBA for speaking out against the Chinese communist government for its human rights abuses.
He told Van Susteren that letting Russia have Bout "could hurt the U.S. in the long run" and that he believes the White House "definitely needs to watch out."
He said that if he could talk to Griner and Whelan, he would tell them, "Be patient and we will get you out of there."
Freedom said he is aware of social media criticism of Griner for having protested the national anthem.
"It definitely broke my heart," he said. "But I mean, now I'm sure she definitely appreciates America more. I'm sure she will give everything she has to just to hear a word of that beautiful national anthem."
He said he would like to see the sports leagues educate players about leaving for dictatorships so others don't get caught up in similar circumstances and to understand how blessed they are in America.
Griner's defenders note that she and other athletes travel to foreign countries to play in the offseason because women are paid less than their male counterparts.
Freedom said he understands that and has been outspoken in his support of equal pay.
"They're trying to do the best. They came to just live a life, so that's why they are taking these risks to go to the other side of the world," he said.
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