HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – Money is a powerful influence and we all need it to live. But, is it necessary to travel to communist North Korea and risk your life to earn it? Dennis Rodman and the former NBA players that accompanied him seemed to think so.
Rodman and other former NBA players including Charles Smith, Sleepy Floyd, Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, Craig Hodges, and Doug Christie traveled to play in an exhibition game on Wednesday in Pyongyang against the North Korean national team to celebrate the birthday of leader Kim Jong-un.
The game has been played. However, the backlash from what is considered support for the North Korean leader from Rodman has been firmly denounced. What’s worse, those seven have been drawn into Rodman’s web of influence. In addition, there were other more highly recognizable former players who sources would not name, but stated that they were packed and ready to go. However, those players opted out after talking with NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“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,” said David Stern in a statement. “Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them.”
Former four-time NBA All-Star guard Otis Birdsong, Chairman of the NBA Retired Players Association, also released a statement on behalf of that organization.
“While we support international goodwill and diplomacy in instances deemed appropriate by our board of directors, 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.”
Birdsong continued. “Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances. Standing alongside our partners at the NBA, we do not condone the basketball activities to be conducted in North Korea this week.”
HUGE HUMAN SACRIFICE
There are bigger issues than money surrounding the nature of this spectacle including the State Department’s effort to seek the release of Kenneth Bae. The American Missionary has been held in North Korea since May, 2013 on charges of “anti-state” crimes to Kim. It is yet to be determined whether or not the game or Rodman’s antics have botched efforts in seeking Bae’s release. However, if his antics or the game didn’t help, was money the only benefit?
It’s been speculated that the players earned a minimum of $25,000.00. It’s quite possible that Rodman earned more. After all, he has the relationship with Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The bigger question is whether or not Rodman could have solely negotiated this deal after watching this interview. Chances are he had help – the kind that allowed him to sit, relax, and not lift a finger except those he pointed at Chris Cuomo of CNN during that heated interview.
What’s really frustrating about this is that Rodman is a Hall of Famer. He was a rebounding machine as he led the NBA in rebounds per game for seven straight seasons. Rodman also won 5 NBA titles with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
But, due to his antics, he is bringing his legacy into question. As long as he kept his antics within the United States borders, he was considered an artist, a diva, an entertainer, a good-hearted individual who was just a little eccentric.
However, this latest development has put him and others in danger. Rodman’s unrelenting persistence to support Kim Jong-un, who he calls his friend for life, along with easily influenced former NBA players seeking a way to make a quick buck, are in a deadly situation until they return to the safe embraces of the United States.
This spectacle has had little effect on the NBA from a public relations standpoint as they have worked tirelessly to distance themselves from it. However, there is still the association.
“This brings attention to the NBA,” says Birdsong. “These guys are former NBA players.”
IT’S STILL AMERICA
There’s little doubt that many in 2014, especially people of color, are still overcoming barriers in this country just to have the opportunity to live the American dream and proudly support their families.
However, America is the greatest country in the world. Those types of exhibitions by former NBA players are played in this country regularly. Those events garner great financial support when promoted properly and are well organized. Opportunities in other countries also exist.
Here’s a thought for Dennis and others who might be thinking of that same enterprise for the sake of making a dollar; try to avoid those countries that have no regard for human rights. You just might be putting your life in harm’s way.