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Meet the creator of 'Free Enes'

10/6/2010

It's not exactly "The Social Network," but then again, "Free Enes" -- the very-clever-yet-probably-falling-on-deaf-ears slogan regarding Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter has been scrawled by Kentucky fans on everything from t-shirts to coffee cups to photos outside the New York Times -- is not exactly Facebook. Still, every movement has an origin story, and the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay is this morning's Aaron Sorkin.

Clay tracked down the originator of the "Free Enes" meme. Turns out, it was first uttered by a 28-year-old middle school teacher named James Streble, who wrote the slogan in a fake letter to the Turkish government on his blog. Streble's friend started the "#freeenes" hashtag on Twitter, former Kentucky basketball players like DeMarcus Cousins picked up on it, and bam: A meme was born.

And here comes the tragic twist: Streble, who works a second job at Hibbett Sports in Louisville to "support [his] UK apparel habit," hasn't made a single piece of merchandise bearing the slogan he birthed:

"At first, I was kind of disappointed that I was the first one to come up with it, and I wasn't getting credit for it," he said. "I even wrote on the blog about it in a post 'Free Enes, you heard it here first.'" In fact, Streble doesn't even own any "Free Enes" apparel or bumper stickers. "I thought about it," he said, "but I thought why should I buy something that I came up with?"

And so our origin story ends. The inventor of an idea is left spurned while the more opportunistic masses make their quick bucks off his creative genius. Hey -- maybe it is like "The Social Network" after all. (OK, maybe not.)