Rodman's Tour Of North Korea: Diplomacy Or Propaganda?

Play associated audio

There's been a publicity circus trailing Dennis Rodman to North Korea to present a big, bouncing birthday present of a basketball game to Kim Jong Un. But did you see the score of the game?

The U.S. team of former NBA players lost the first half, 47 to 39, before the sides were combined.

Well, if you play a team sponsored by a ruthless leader who recently had his own uncle iced, losing is probably the smart move.

I happen to like Dennis Rodman. I saw him up-close when he played for the Chicago Bulls, and he was one of the great re-bounders of all-time. He was famously flamboyant, but often also disarmingly frank about the frailties and insecurities he developed growing up as an abandoned young man on the roughest streets of Dallas. He seemed to call anyone he met his friend — a nice quality until you meet a despot.

This week Dennis Rodman apologized for suggesting that Kenneth Bae, the American man being held in a North Korean prison, must deserve being locked up for "hostile acts against the state."

"I had been drinking," Dennis Rodman said in a statement. "I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry."

Several of the players who joined Mr. Rodman in North Korea, including Kenny Anderson and Vin Baker, have had drinking problems that shortened their pro careers. The Dear Leader's birthday bash might have been their last chance at a big payday. NBA commissioner David Stern told CNN this week he thought the players had been "blinded by a flash of North Korean money."

Dennis Ross, the longtime U.S. diplomat, told us he believes that Dennis Rodman "is being used by North Korea," but adds, "someone ought to talk to the group about who and what they saw," because even small details of the crowd at that birthday basketball bash might offer insights into a bizarre and murky leadership.

Ping-Pong might have helped the U.S. and China break barriers in the early 1970s. But has Dennis Rodman's mystery tour through North Korea been sports diplomacy — or propaganda? With 16 million North Koreans in need of food, according to a U.N. report, and 130,000 being held as political prisoners, you might wonder if U.S. and North Korean athletes need to recognize their common humanity on the basketball court so much as the North Korean regime needs to see the humanity of its own people.

But is Dennis Rodman available for kids' birthday parties?

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'The Wake' Is An Unlikely Hit In An Imaginary Language

Paul Kingsnorth self-published The Wake, his tale of the 11th-century Norman conquest of England, written in a pastiche of Old and modern English — and was startled when it became a smash hit.
NPR

Philly Preps Blessed Beer And Other Edible Swag To Greet Pope Francis

Enterprising businesses will mark the pope's visit to Philadelphia next month with irreverent tchotchkes — including beers brewed with holy water and toasters that etch the pontiff's face on bread.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - August 28, 2015

We chat with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier about the city's strategy to combat the spike in violent crime taking place in the nation's capital.

NPR

New Tesla Breaks Consumer Reports' Ratings Scale, Bolsters Company's Stock

"It kind of broke the system," says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine's auto test division. Tesla's stock rose 8 percent Thursday.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.