Last week, former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman implausibly embarked on an unofficial diplomatic mission to North Korea, declaring dictator Kim Jong-un an “awesome guy.” On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Rodman stick to basketball.
"Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player," Kerry told NBC News in an interview recorded in Qatar. “And as a diplomat, he is a great basketball player. And that’s where we’ll leave it.”
Previously, the White House condemned Rodman’s visit to North Korea as little more than a celebrity sporting event that should not be taken as an official diplomatic mission. In his appearance on NBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Kerry seemed to echo the same sentiments.
In the same interview, Kerry also spoke on more serious matters, such as the White House’s decision to focus on a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria rather than providing weapons to rebels.
In late February, Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters embarked on a trip to North Korea as part of a Vice-sponsored documentary about “basketball diplomacy.” The former Chicago Bull played alongside the Globetrotters in a special exhibition game against a North Korean team, making the front page of North Korea’s state-owned newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
Following his time on the court, Rodman sat down for a personal one-on-one with the Korean leader, who was a noted fan of “the Worm” during his time on the Chicago Bulls.
Just before Rodman left Pyongyang, he told Chinese news agency Xinhua that Kim “is like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders. ... He is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much.”
“Personally, I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong-un and the DPRK people,” Rodman said after sitting courtside with Kim at the basketball game. The two were seen laughing and chatting without translators on the sidelines of the game.
In another story by the Associated Press, the flamboyant ex-NBA star was asked what he thought of the North Korean leader. Rodman responded, “He’s proud, his country likes him -- not like him, love him, love him. ... Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.