Basketball’s bad boy Dennis Rodman sat down with West Point cadets and stiff-backed, medal-wearing military officers Friday to tell them a thing or two about his pal, North Korea strongman Kim Jong Un.
Rodman was a guest of the Modern War Institute of the academy in New York and spoke on a panel about “Alternative Tools for Diplomacy.” Rodman, who considers Kim a “friend for life” and has spent days with him several times during visits to North Korea, has a very different attitude than many in the West about the missile-launching leader known for killing his enemies. Kim is most recently suspected of orchestrating the brazen super-toxic nerve-agent death of his half-brother Kim Jong Nam in the middle of a crowded Kuala Lumpur airport last month.
“To me he is just a normal guy,” Rodman told an auditorium filled with cadets, the Los Angeles Times reported. “He told me, ‘I would love to come to America to go to a New York Knicks game.’ He actually said that to me. Obviously, he can’t come here or he would be dead.”
Join MWI tomorrow, 1250-1345, for a panel discussion on alternative tools of diplomacy with Dennis Rodman, Dr. Terwilliger, & COL Collins pic.twitter.com/HG70F2wOFx
— Modern War Institute (@WarInstitute) March 3, 2017
Rodman, 55, helped arrange an exhibition basketball game with the Harlem Globetrotters in 2013 in North Korea for Kim, who’s a fan of the sport. Rodman returned a number of times, even sailing on a yacht with Kim. He has spent more time with the North Korean leader than any other American, though many scoff at Rodman’s naive ideas about the dictator.
Rodman was roundly criticized when he visited Kim in 2014 with a group of retired basketball players for the dictator’s birthday. He also insinuated that a Korean-American missionary held captive in North Korea was somehow complicit in his imprisonment.
“I sang ‘Happy Birthday,’ and people tripped out in America. He’s supposed to be this bad guy,” said Rodman. “Our friendship is about sports. It’s not about politics.’’
Rodman, who has been largely quiet about his regard for Kim over the past year, still believes that sports is something that can bring countries together.
“Sports is the one thing on the planet that could actually heal things at least for a day, two days, or a week,” he said.
Rodman, who endorsed Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and appeared on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” said that Trump told him that he hoped to visit North Korea.
“I was in [Trump’s] office, and he said, ‘I want to go’ to North Korea,” Rodman recalled.
The Obama administration criticized Rodman’s trips to North Korean, calling them a clever publicity stunt by Kim. But Trump called Rodman’s trips “smart.“
Rodman’s agent, Chris Volo, said at the West Point talk that “Dennis would do anything for President Trump. He would go back there in a second, if it ended up helping our nation,” the L.A. Times reported.
An article in the North Korea News announced Rodman’s appearance at the military academy. A spokesman for a North Korean cultural exchange program told the news outlet that if Rodman re-emerges as a “cultural diplomat” that he would most “definitely be welcome back to Pyongyang.”
Rodman finished his comments at West Point, thanking the crowd for “putting their lives on the line” to “keep us safe.”
— John Goodwill (@johncgoodwill) March 3, 2017