basketball diplomacy

Dennis Rodman Returns to North Korea

Dennis Rodman on his way to Pyongyang. Photo: WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Dennis Rodman, former NBA basketball player and Celebrity Apprentice contestant, is visiting North Korea again, CNN first reported. Spotted at the Beijing airport on Tuesday before boarding a flight to Pyongyang, Rodman told journalists that he was hoping to “do something pretty positive” during his planned four-night stay. Might that include trying to help the four Americans currently detained by dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime? “Well that’s not my purpose right now,” he responded. “My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”

Rodman has made a few trips to North Korea, including in 2013 and 2014, and once declared big basketball fan Kim his “friend for life.” His past visits — extremely rare for an American — were controversial at the time, and are probably even more so now given the escalation of tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. But Rodman is a President Trump supporter, so it’s possible his brand of “basketball diplomacy” has a chance under the new administration. “I was in [Trump’s] office, and he said, ‘I want to go.’ That’s the first thing he said,” Rodman recently reminisced at a panel discussion on North Korea.

A Trump administration representative told CNN that while the State Department knew that Rodman was headed to North Korea, he wasn’t representing the United States in an official capacity. Instead, Rodman’s visit is being sponsored by Potcoin (“Banking for the marijuana industry,” the company’s website explains).

Asked if he’d discussed the trip with Trump, Rodman said, “I’m pretty sure he’s happy at the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.” Times change:

This post has been updated throughout.

Dennis Rodman Returns to North Korea