Dennis Rodman has created his own political paradox. He is once again in North Korea but this time he’s got some former NBA players along with him. Since his Sept. 3, 2013, visit to the secluded country, Rodman planned to train the North Korean basketball team. He announced in December that he was planning to bring some NBA players for an exhibition game. This was questionable in the eyes of the public but he managed to do it.
It poses an intriguing situation. This once famous and controversial NBA player would become the only link to the most guarded country in the world. In addition, he would assemble a team of basketball players that would include Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker, Cliff Robinson and Doug Christie for an exhibition game to serve as diplomatic dialogue. It resembles a movie script that many producers might reject because of its sheer implausibility. Yet, Rodman did just that; he and his unlikely team scheduled their first game for Jan. 8, Kim Jung-Un’s birthday.
It is not a success story yet, nor is it shaping to be like one. Recently Rodman went on a passionate tirade after he was asked by Chris Cuomo on CNN about the possible release of Kenneth Bae, an American citizen currently serving 15 years of hard labor in North Korea. Ever since Rodman befriended the young North Korean leader, he has been pressured to negotiate the release of Bae. Although the basketball player initially displayed his desire to do so, his views have appeared to change after his recent visit with Kim Jung-Un. In his interview on CNN, Rodman implied that he knew what the imprisoned American allegedly had done and was therefore guilty of the charge. Instead of elaborating, he went on about how his teammates had left their families to go to North Korea.
For whatever reason, the stars have aligned to have Rodman as an ambassador to one of the most inaccessible countries in the world. He has become a lightning rod for criticism for his failure to use his unique friendship to promote human rights and negotiate the release of Bae. It is a very tricky position politically and his recent focus on general diplomacy over the release of Bae is almost guaranteed to deem his whole conversation with North Korea as not only a failure, but also perhaps to label Rodman as a North Korean pawn. This is a sentiment that was already suggested by Erin Burnett of CNN who asked readers on Twitter if Rodman was being used by North Korea. In reply to the tweet, he replied that he simply wanted to establish diplomatic connections.
His political paradox is that without Bae, he seems destined to lose politically unless some unprecedented cooperation appears from the side of North Korea. This is unlikely, but even if he doesn’t secure a release for Bae (regardless of his guilt or innocence) or create some visible connections between the U.S. and North Korea, relations on a more subtle level can still be significant, especially for future relations. Although Rodman’s public image might be tarnished, history could judge him differently. It’s a possibility that’s just as implausible as the situation he currently finds himself in, surrounded by his cast of former basketball players. At worst, it would be quite a biopic motion picture.
By: Ildar Sverigin