MIAMI — Dennis Rodman’s latest trip to North Korea is generating no support from the NBA and the league’s retired players association, both of whom made it clear they had nothing to do with the venture.
Rodman took a group of about a half-dozen retired NBA players to North Korea this week for a game that’s intended to be a birthday present of sorts for Kim Jong Un, the nation’s leader who is expected to attend. Kim’s human rights record and North Korea’s history when it comes to developing nuclear weapons are widely criticized globally.
The National Basketball Retired Players Association “denounced” the trip and the scheduled Wednesday game.
“While we support international goodwill and diplomacy in instances deemed appropriate … it is important to clarify that the trip to North Korea led by Dennis Rodman and others was not sanctioned by the NBRPA and is not supported by our organization in any way,” said Otis Birdsong, the NBRPA’s chairman. “Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern was clear, though diplomatic in his remarks about Rodman’s venture.
“The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman’s North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department,” Stern said. “Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them.”
The State Department has recommended that U.S. citizens not try to enter North Korea, with at least six Americans — including two with valid visas issued by that country — having been arrested there since 2009.
Rodman has also been criticized for apparently not yet trying to use his access to North Korea as a method of helping secure the release of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who is being held there on charges of “anti-state” crimes.
“You’ve got to be conscious and aware of what’s happening in the world,” said Miami guard Roger Mason Jr., the first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. “I mean, it’s the life we live. I don’t want to get too much into what Dennis is doing, but I’m certainly aware of it and it’s tricky when you mix playing the game of basketball with sensitive subjects like North Korea.”
Other players simply hoped the trip did not create even more problems.
“I think it comes from a good place,” Miami forward Shane Battier said. “Intentions are good. I don’t know if the execution is what they thought when they dreamt this initially. Hopefully some good things can come out of it.”