If harsh criticism from the U.S. government as the commissioner of the NBA wasn’t enough, Dennis Rodman’s North Korean “Basketball Diplomacy” has also infuriated the family of detained American missionary Kenneth Bae.
Bae, who entered North Korea in November 2012, was accused of planning a “Jericho operation” to topple the government through religious tactics. The family of Bae, a devout Christian and a married father of three, insist that he was simply “showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism.”
Reports claim that Bae’s religious devotion and alleged requests to feed orphans may have triggered the arrest, with North Korean officials claiming to have found evidence of a coup on his computer hard drive. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor – a dire prospect considering that Bae suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and liver problems.
In a bizarre CNN interview on Tuesday, the eve of Rodman’s controversial exhibition match against the North Korean basketball team that he helped coach, the former Chicago Bull insinuated that Bae deserved his punishment.
After being repeatedly questioned about his refusal to speak with Kim about setting Bae free, Rodman lashed out at anchor Chris Cuomo.
“The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand – if you understand what Kenneth Bae did,” said an increasingly agitated Rodman. “Do you understand what he did? In this country?”
When pressed further, Rodman – waving a cigar and pointing directly into the camera – told Cuomo, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think.”
Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, expressed outrage over the internationally televised exchange.
“Dennis Rodman could do a lot of good by advocating for Kenneth to Kim Jong-un, but instead he has decided to hurl outrageous accusations at my brother, insinuating that Kenneth has done something sinister,” Chung said in a statement released to the press.
She added, “It is clear to me that there is nothing diplomatic about [Rodman’s] trip. My family and I are outraged by his recent comments. He is playing games with my brother’s life. There is no diplomacy, only games, and at my brother’s expense.”
Yesterday, Rodman and a group of six other ex-NBA players faced off in a friendly match against the North Koreans – but not before singing for his “best friend” Kim.
“In a grotesque replay of Marilyn Monroe, [Rodman] crooned ‘Happy Birthday to You’ to the 31-year-old tyrant,” wrote The Washington Post. “It wouldn’t be surprising if the callow Kim were to conclude that, thanks to Rodman, he doesn’t need to free Bae in order to win good will in the United States.”
And, by the way – before the North Korean and former NBA teams were mixed at half-time, the North Korean squad led 47 to 39. Perhaps Rodman should focus his energy on coaching, rather than his misconstrued idea of “diplomacy.”
Editor’s note: According to AP, Dennis Rodman has issued the following apology for his statement about Kenneth Bae, claiming that he was intoxicated during the CNN interview:
“I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae’s family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I embarrassed a lot of people. I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.”