Former American NBA player, Dennis Rodman, had a meltdown with interviewers upon his arrival in North Korea recently. In a bizarre meltdown by a bizarre former basketball player in a bizarre country, North Koreans have to be shaking their heads and wondering just what has America sent them.
Dennis Rodman, the self-appointed ambassador of sports set off anger around the world for his outburst on Korean national television.
Rodman is in North Korea to celebrate his friend’s birthday Wednesday to mark the occasion, Rodman brought a few other former NBA players to play against a local team. Rodman, who has visited North Korea three times over the past twelve months describes Kim Jong Un, the country’s President, as a “beloved friend.”
In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Rodman was asked about Kenneth Bae, an American, who was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp by Jong Un on charges that he planned to overthrow the government.
Rodman told the reporter that he would “…love to speak on this” and then turned the conversation around to his teammates who had left home to head to North Korea to play.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Rodman’s bigmouth comments were outrageous and shocking.
Bae, married with three children has experienced a string of health issues and was recently transferred a hospital. His mother, Myunghee Bae, who visited the northern half of the Korean peninsula in October said that her son was a devoted Christian who didn’t grasp the government and beliefs in North Korea. North Korea, officially, is an atheist country and has described certain religious activities as being part of Bae’s crimes.
Chung is upset because Rodman didn’t use his supposedly tight relationship with North Korea’s leader to help gain Bae’s release from the country.
“He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth,” she said. “He refused to do so. And…we were appalled by that.”
Bill Richardson, American ambassador to the United Nations in 1997 and 1998 was critical of Rodman’s comments as well.
“I think Dennis Rodman crossed a line this morning by implying that Kenneth Bae might be guilty, by suggesting that there was a crime,” said Richardson. Rodman “…drank a little bit too much of the Kool-Aid…,” he said.
So far, Rodman’s only efforts to win release of Bae have been one Tweet in May when he tweeted to Kim, “…do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.”
Rodman is being unintentionally comical when he describes his visits to North Korea as a “basketball diplomacy.” U.S. government officials have said they are not involved with the trips, are embarrassed by Rodman’s meltdown and don’t want anything to do with the trips, insisting that the attention should be focused on Kim’s repressive regime.
Dennis Rodman’s melt down in North Korea started when he was asked if he and the team should have come to North Korea in light of the recent execution of Jong-Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, allegedly by being fed to the dogs.
“I love my friend,” Rodman said in a reference to Kim. “This is my friend.”
After Rodman’s outburst started, player Charles Smith tried to bring reason to the discussion, but Rodman got wound up again.
“You’re the guy behind the mic right now,” he told Cuomo. “We’re the guys here doing one thing. We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse? Well, we’re going to take it.”
Rodman stood by his beliefs that his efforts will eventually open the door to North Korea in a similar way that ping-pong diplomacy did with China.
Smith, a lot more level headed than Rodman, explained that not only ex-players, but dozens of other Americans also came, saying that the visit “…was about basketball, not politics.”
Smith tried to explain Rodman’s use of the word “friend” regarding his relationship to Jong-Un claiming that the word in Korean means more like that of an associate as opposed to how the word is understood in English.
The NBA Tuesday started to make strategic moves to distance itself from Rodman as well. Pointing out that there is a lot at stake, soon-to-be-former NBA Commissioner David Stern chalked Rodman’s antics and outburst up to boys will be boys.
In saying that the league didn’t sanction the trip, Stern said he wouldn’t send players to North Korea without the blessings of The White House.
While sports diplomacy can be a great thing as demonstrated in China and Iran, most observers feel that it should be carried out in a more dignified fashion that what Rodman is capable of pulling off.
In the meantime, Rodman’s meltdown in North Korea is going viral on YouTube.
By: Jerry Nelson