Controversy and Dennis Rodman are two subjects that can almost be used interchangeably. During his career in the NBA, Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, arguably the most eccentric player to ever play the game, managed to lead the league in both technical fouls and ejections. Now, controversy has followed Rodman into his personal relations, with his developing relationship with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.
Once more, North Korea has received negative attention worldwide with Rodman’s recent trip to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. In an attempt for what Rodman calls “basketball diplomacy,” a dozen basketball veterans, including Vin Baker and Clifford Robinson, followed Rodman in his excursion to North Korea. Rodman’s idea of basketball diplomacy came in the form of an exhibition basketball game to be held in honor of Kim Jong-un’s birthday, which is on January 8th. However, this gesture has received much negative criticism, having many questioning whether or not it is ethical to visit North Korea.
What’s more unfortunate for Rodman is that his trip came weeks after Kim Jong-un publicized his contentious decision to execute his uncle by feeding him to a pack of starving dogs. In addition, Rodman’s journey to North Korea has resurfaced many questions regarding Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen who was sentenced to fifteen years in a North Korean labor camp. Kenneth Bae was arrested November 3, 2012 for “a crime against the state,” and was found guilty of “hostile acts to bring down the government.” When questioned about Bae, Rodman remarked with vehement passion, “Do you understand what he did in this country?” His reaction has angered many following the U.S. citizen that was detained in North Korea, including Bae’s family, who felt as if this was an opportunity to support Kenneth. Bae’s sister Terri Chung stated, ”He has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn’t know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that.”
While Rodman insists that his efforts are in an attempt for “basketball diplomacy,” many do not see his actions in the same ray of light. In regard to Rodman’s actions, Eliot Engel, a New York Democratic Representative notes, “Dennis Rodman wants to go there and play basketball. It would be like inviting Adolf Hitler to lunch.”
As usual, Rodman seems unfazed as to what everyone else has to think. During the game, which was held on Wednesday, Rodman led a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” for the dictator and appeared to bow to Kim Jong-un as the extravaganza took place.
When speaking on the matter, Rodman states that, “I hope people will have a different view about North Korea.'” According to Rodman, “North Korea is not bad.” In addition, Rodman remarked, “It’s a great idea for the world. And, people always turn down the things I do. And, it’s weird.” As for what he has to say about the North Korean dictator, “Jim Jong-un is a very good guy, and I love him.”
Although Rodman’s heart seems to be in a good place, he has been welcomed only by a whirlwind of harsh critics. However, Reverend Jesse Jackson praised Rodman’s efforts saying, “Congratulations Dennis Rodman on your diplomacy efforts in North Korea. It might be dark, but you are a light!” It is a seemingly pointless gesture, as to how it has been mocked as well.
By Aaron Weiss