Former NBA player Dennis Rodman defended his trip with other basketball players to North Korea in an explosive interview Tuesday, saying he hopes his presence will open doors. “One day, one day this door is going to open because of these 10 guys here,” an emotional Rodman told CNN’s “New Day” during a satellite interview from Pyongyang, North Korea.
Rodman, along with other former NBA players, arrived in North Korea to play an exhibition basketball game against a North Korean team Wednesday. Rodman called the trip a “great idea for the world.” However, following questioning from CNN’s Chris Cuomo about the political criticisms of the trip, the NBA Hall of Famer exploded. Cuomo asked Rodman whether he will use the opportunity to speak about Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who has been held in North Korea.
“Do you understand what he did?” Rodman said. “You tell me! You tell me! Why is he held captive?”
“I don’t give a rat’s a— what you think,” Rodman said, repeatedly yelling that the men — who joined him on set for the interview — left their families behind for the trip and are facing criticism as well. Remaining calm was former NBA player Charles Smith, who echoing Rodman’s justification for “basketball diplomacy” said it wasn’t about politics and walked back Rodman’s relationship with Kim Jong Un, who Rodman has previously described as “a friend for life.” “We’re playing semantics on the word ‘friend.’ We all know that when you use the term friend, it’s an endearing term. It’s an associate,” Smith said. Smith added they are not scheduled to meet with Kim Jong Un and said the date of the game, reported as being for Kim Jong Un’s birthday, was arranged that way.