Cockburn had a sojourn through the corridors of power on Thursday — attending a congressional reception on global human rights in the Rayburn House Office Building, hosted by basketball star Enes Kanter Freedom.

Freedom has a storied past when it comes to dealing with dictatorships: the Turkish government revoked his passport in 2017 and jailed his father over his support for Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who is feverishly critical of President Erdoğan.

He caused a controversy at the start of this season after donning shoes highlighting the persecution of Uighur Muslims and Tibetans in China while playing...

Cockburn had a sojourn through the corridors of power on Thursday — attending a congressional reception on global human rights in the Rayburn House Office Building, hosted by basketball star Enes Kanter Freedom.

Freedom has a storied past when it comes to dealing with dictatorships: the Turkish government revoked his passport in 2017 and jailed his father over his support for Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who is feverishly critical of President Erdoğan.

He caused a controversy at the start of this season after donning shoes highlighting the persecution of Uighur Muslims and Tibetans in China while playing for the Boston Celtics. The NBA stopped broadcasting his team’s games, and midway through the season he was cut from their roster.

Freedom has no plans to return to the sport he’s played professionally for the last decade — instead he’s set up the Enes Kanter Freedom Foundation and will focus on advocacy.

At the podium, the basketball player addressed around eighty members of Congress and staffers about his move into political activism. “Some of the things I talked about affected my family,” he said. He then recounted an anecdote from one of his basketball camps in New York, where a parent had asked him why he had never spoken out about the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. At that point, he had only used his platform “for one country, one dictatorship.”

“Since February it was a very lonely road,” Freedom said, in reference to being cut by the Celtics. “Not one of my teammates called or texted me,” apparently out of fear that Freedom would mention that they’d done so in interviews.

Of his foundation’s mission, Freedom said, “We need to fight together against dictatorships… Until one of those crazy billionaires finds another planet, this world is what we have.”

“There are some baklavas in the back,” he concluded.

Freedom was then followed by several members of Congress — all Republicans, and many of them representatives of places the star had previously played. Most offered some rendition of a “freedom isn’t free” stump speech and praise for the player: “Many people take freedom for granted here,” said Louisiana congressman Mike Johnson.

The distinct honor of worst joke of the day went to Florida congressman Mike Waltz. “You stand head and shoulders above the rest of us,” he told the 6’10” Kanter.

Other representatives who spoke: Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Mario Diaz-Ballet of Florida, Chris Stewart of Utah, who hosted the event, Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania, Andy Barr of Kentucky, Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Michael McCaul of Texas, John Moolenaar of Michigan and David Kustoff and Tim Burchett of Tennessee. “I’m gonna get a selfie with you here, alright brother,” Burchett said to Freedom in his southern drawl following his remarks.

The sole member to the Senate to show up was Florida’s Rick Scott, current chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a 2024 presidential long-shot. “You will change the world,” the senator told Freedom.

The basketball star posed for selfies as Hill staffers of both parties rubbed shoulders with enemies of the Turkish state. A number of attendees represented various countries threatened by autocracy: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Venezuela, even Kazakhstan. Cockburn lingered at the back by the buffet and winced after spotting a gross atrocity of his own: someone had nosed the Brie with a plastic knife.

Cockburn rolled out of the event at 5 p.m. on his way to a boozy dinner after a brief catch-up with Freedom. His basketball career might be at an end — but his work in DC is just getting started.