While Charles Smith apparently is having second thoughts about accompanying Dennis Rodman and a handful of former NBA players to Pyongyang, North Korea, for an exhibition game scheduled for Wednesday, Doug Christie didn’t express any such reservations during a brief cell phone conversation with his wife, Jackie.
“We just talked for all of about three minutes because the phone line kept going in an out,” Jackie Christie said a few minutes ago. “I don’t even think they have the Internet. But my husband made it clear when he was asked to play that he wouldn’t get into the politics of it. We know those guys. They all love to play basketball. Doug trains athletes. That’s what he does.”
Rodman organized the game as a birthday present for North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, whom he refers to as a “friend” and has visited on other occasions. Kenny Anderson, Sleepy Floyd, Vin Baker and Clifford Robinson accompanied Rodman, Christie and Smith, a one-time president of the NBA Players Association.
But the trip – which was not sanctioned by the U.S. State Department nor endorsed by the NBA or the Retired Players Association – has been heavily criticized because of North Korea’s human rights record. When CNN reporter Chris Cuomo asked Rodman Tuesday if he planned to inquire about Kenneth Bae, the American missionary who is being detained in North Korea on “anti-state” charges, the former Detroit Pistons star erupted.
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“Do you understand what he did in his country?” Rodman responded, while angrily pointing at the camera. “No, no, no, you tell me why? I would love to speak on this.”
Smith later told the Associated Press “I feel a lot of remorse for the guys, because we are doing something positive, but it’s a lot bigger than us. We are not naïve. We understand why things are being portrayed the way they are. We’re not skilled in those particular areas. Dennis is definitely not skilled in those particular areas.”
Photo gallery: Dennis Rodman in North Korea for exhibition game