Ex-Basketball Star Rodman Revels in Relations With North Korea
By Dan Gelston 22 November 2013
Dennis Rodman wants to belly up to the bar with some friends and order a shot of peace talks.
He believed his latest proposal is just the tonic needed to ease tension between the United States and North Korea.
“Everyone knows (President Barack) Obama drinks beer,” Rodman said. “But you know what? I’m pretty sure he does have a cocktail here or there. I’d love to see him with a ‘Bad Ass Vodka’ shot in his hand, toasting to Kim Jong (Un) and me.
“That would be awesome.”
A Rodman-branded vodka is set to debut this week, just the latest business venture he’s had a fling with, stretching from wrestling to authoring a children’s book to even, yes, unofficial basketball ambassador to North Korea. He can count Kim as a fan of the vodka — the duo drank from two cases Rodman brought over for his recent visit in September, where they talked hoops and planned an exhibition game in January.
Dennis Rodman. NBA champion. Hall of Famer. Reality TV star. Peace broker?
“Just think, it’s up to Dennis Rodman to break ground with North Korea,” he said. “I’m the only one in the world who will go talk to this guy and try and find some common ground with these people. I’m hoping that gap between America and North Korea can close. Those guys love a lot about America. They love it. That’s why I go over there.
“People don’t believe that.”
Rodman has been criticized for not talking about North Korea’s human rights record, described as one of the world’s worst by activists, the U.S. State Department and North Korean defectors. The defectors have repeatedly testified about the government’s alleged use of indiscriminate killings, rapes, beatings and prison camps holding as many as 120,000 people deemed opponents of authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un, the third generation of his family to rule.
Pyongyang and Washington are also locked in a standoff over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs and long-range missiles. North Korea denies the existence of the camps and the abuse described in painstaking detail by many defectors.
While skirting all these issues, Rodman, who once wore a wedding dress to a book signing, said all his work should have earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.
“People put that label on me like it’s my responsibility to save the world,” he said. “If it happens to come to that, then yes, I guess I’m all for it. Let’s just all get together and keep everything cool, man.”
Rodman, known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as he was for basketball, was the highest-profile American to meet Kim since Kim inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. He traveled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television.
Rodman called Kim a “friend for life,” and planned to visit Pyongyang again in December and January. He announced plans to stage two exhibition games in North Korea in January. The first will be Jan. 8 — Kim’s birthday — with another to follow two days later.
Rodman said former professional basketball players have committed to the games, though he declined to reveal names.
The former Chicago Bulls star poked fun at his controversial relationship with the North Korean leader in a pistachios commercial that saw a Kim lookalike press a red button and “blow up” Rodman. He also appears in a Foot Locker ad that imagines Mike Tyson returning Evander Holyfield’s ear, Craig Sager setting his garish suits ablaze, and Rodman ordering a one-way ticket to North Korea.
It’s all just part life of The Worm.
“It’s funny, with all the things I’ve been doing, people always ask me, ‘What do you do?” he said. “I don’t do anything. I keep myself relevant and alive. I just want to go out there and make people happy. What makes people happy? Drinking.”
Rodman stamped his name on “Dennis Rodman — The original Bad Ass Premium Vodka,” that is set for a Thursday launch. It was in the works before his relations with North Korea, but has taken off since.
“It’s not, ‘why vodka?’ It’s about, ‘it’s about time,’ Rodman said.
So maybe it’s time to shake and stir the political world with a shot of vodka. Or a vodka-soda with lemon. Whatever. Rodman just wanted to lobby the president to reach out and talk with Kim.
“I opened doors in North Korea and made people go, ‘Wow,’“ Rodman said. “It don’t hurt to pick up the phone and just see what’s going on.
“It’s a new era. Just give it a shot.”