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Enes Kanter Freedom Explains Why He Became An American Citizen

BOSTON (CBS) -- Last week, Enes Kanter Freedom officially became a U.S. citizen. This week, he's explaining why he went through the process of gaining American citizenship and what it means to him.

"I'm overwhelmed with emotion just writing these words: I, Enes Kanter Freedom, am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America, the land of the free, and home of the brave," Freedom wrote in an essay for The Atlantic.

In the essay, Freedom explained that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's regime in Turkey had left him "stranded."

"I had no family," he said. "I had no nationality. I had no home."

Freedom said that because of this regime, he's been unable to speak to his parents since 2015, out of fear of his parents being arrested. He also said he was fortunate to avoid kidnapping attempts from the Turkish government while traveling in Asia and Europe.

"That's when America welcomed me with open arms," Freedom wrote. "This country has given me all the opportunities in the world. Friends, teammates, journalists, politicians, and activists became my new family, united in our struggle for justice, equality, human rights, and democracy. When I started the process of becoming an American citizen, I realized that life is bigger than basketball. I decided to dedicate the power and privilege of my platform to the causes that matter -- to be a voice for the voiceless."

The 29-year-old said he finally feels like he has a home now.

"For six long years, I was without a home. I know what it's like for a people to have their freedom stripped away. And I know what it's like to have my own freedom stripped away," he wrote. "But this week, I'm reclaiming my Freedom. I just became an American citizen, and I'm making America and its freedoms a part of my very identity."

Since becoming an American citizen, Freedom has made several television appearances. In one such interview, he said that Americans who are critical of this country and its government should "just keep their mouth shut and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world."

On Thursday, he addressed that comment while on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.

"What I meant when I said people should stop criticizing, obviously I do recognize there are so many problems that are happening. But I'm coming from a country where people are getting jailed just because they talked about criticizing the government," Freedom said. "What I meant by it is people should feel very lucky and blessed to be in this situation. And obviously two years ago, when the Black Lives Matter protests were happening, I was one of the first ones in the whole [NBA], went out there and criticized what was happening and joined the protest with my teammates. So it is important to know what is going on in America also, but at the same time, people should feel very blessed and lucky to be in this situation, because you have freedom of speech, religion, expresison. And there is democracy. So it is really important for me."

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