Weirdest. Diplomatic. Mission. Ever.

From the Department of WTF: Dennis Rodman is making a diplomatic trip to North Korea. Why? I have no idea. Maybe that country has a thing for pathetic has-been athletes who spend all their time getting drunk and making people feel uncomfortable.

The flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman is heading to North Korea , to become an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the US and North Korea.

Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and a film crew from the Vice media company are visiting the communist country to shoot footage for a TV show set to air on HBO in early April, Vice told the Associated Press before the group’s departure from Beijing…

Vice said the Americans hoped to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea by running a sports camp for children and playing games with local people – and by competing alongside North Korea’s top athletes in an exhibition match they hope will be attended by the leader, Kim Jong-un.

“At a time when tensions between the two countries are running high, it’s important to keep lines of cultural communication open, no matter how non-traditional those channels may be,” said Shane Smith, the Vice founder who is hosting the TV series. “It’s important to show North Koreans that America is not their enemy, and playing a game we both love is a step in the right direction.”

The mind boggles.

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  • Trebuchet

    Does he have one of the state-approved haircuts?

  • Marcus Ranum

    Millard Fillmore once sent diplomats to Switzerland proposing joint naval maneuvers (allegedly) – the Swiss were very polite about it. Perhaps that was weirder diplomacy because it was actually from the government.

    Hey Rodman: your 15 minutes ended a while ago.

  • matty1

    He’s going there to film a TV show, I don’t think this actually counts as diplomacy outside Dennis Rodman’s head.

  • rabbitscribe

    I’m pretty sure five NBA World Championships count for more than “15 minutes of fame…”

  • Moggie

    Best thing about this? He tweeted “maybe I’ll run into the Gangnam Style dude while I’m here”. So he’s clearly put a lot of effort into preparation.

  • Jacob Schmidt

    I have no idea. Maybe that country has a thing for pathetic has-been athletes who spend all their time getting drunk and making people feel uncomfortable.

    I remember reading a while back (I think it was a Cracked article) that Kim Jong Il had a huge thing for Micheal Jordan. Maybe they’re settling?

  • erichoug

    OK, I have gone into something of a North Korea obsession in the last few years and I have been reading and listening to nearly everything I can get hold of on the Hermit Kingdom and there is one thing I want to make absolutely clear: NOBODY should be going to North Korea! And especially celebrities.

    The regime in Pyongyang earns hard currency by a number of legal and illegal means. It uses this money, not to improve the lives of it’s citizens,(North Korea was the single biggest customer of Hennessy Cognac during the time when 2 million ordinary North Koreans starved to death) but to support the lifestyle of the Kim family and to continue to bribe the small elite class that keeps them in power. When someone visits the country, there is always a charge for the privilege. In the case of Rodman and his crew it is probably in the range of 6 figures maybe into 7. Again, this is money that HBO and Dennis Rodman will be paying to what is essentially a ruthless, criminal gang that has enslaved an entire country. Their money will be used to help keep them in power and to pay for more cognac.

    Also, the North will ABSOLUTELY make propaganda hay out of this visit.

    I very much want to visit North Korea. But I will not go until the current regime is gone! I will not give one red cent of my money to the Kim family. And you shouldn’t either.

  • rabbitscribe

    “Settling?” You’re all nuts! Rodman’s not some ‘roid-head with a spotty five-year career during which he never posted a winning record and went overall 13-22 with a 3.42 ERA (Oh- are those John Rockers numbers? What a coincidence). Rodman was a BEAST! He’d be under the basket in a pack of opposing players a foot taller than him, a ball would get loose, and in the blink of an eye they’d be on their asses and Rodman would be whipping the ball all the way down court for Pippen to dunk or get fouled. You think teams wanted to tolerate the tats, hair, and piercings? Of course they didn’t, but it was a price well worth paying. He’s an incredible and inspiring rags-to-riches story and if he’s a bit unorthodox, so much the better.


    Chicago, USA

  • baal

    There is an entire world of opportunity for semi-famous people to sell their presence to Saudi princes and petty dictators the world over. Rich folks do it too like when they get a pop start to sing at their weddings. I’m guessing Rodman was offered a pile of cash. I suspect he had no clue about the difference in North vs South Korea until he saw the conditions once he got there. I’m a little surprised the State department let him go or wonder if he’s due to do some explaining on his way back into the U.S..

  • composer99

    If Men in Black is any guide, then Rodman is going there for a diplomatic mission. Between his home planet and North Korea.

  • d.c.wilson

    “I remember reading a while back (I think it was a Cracked article) that Kim Jong Il had a huge thing for Micheal Jordan. Maybe they’re settling?”

    So, they not only had to settle for Rodman, they couldn’t even get him while Kim Jung Il was still alive?

    BTW, is it just me, or does Vice Media sound like a great name for a porn studio?

  • Ichthyic

    interesting take on this, erichoug.

    food for thought.

  • Ed Brayton

    rabbitscribe —

    As a Pistons fan, I certainly recognize Rodman’s greatness as a basketball player. But I can also recognize what a pathetic figure he’s been since he retired. A friend of mine ran into him a few weeks ago in Vegas, when he stumbled into a seedy bar drunk, hit on them incessantly and then went up on stage and made a fool out of himself (I think I even put up the video of that). That’s pretty much his life now, just stumbling around looking for anyone to recognize him and pay attention to him. And pointing that out has nothing to do with impugning his basketball achievements. One simply has nothing to do with the other.

  • rabbitscribe


    My replies were not directed at you but rather towards commenters who seem to regard him as the basketball equivalent of Charo. Couldn’t let that slide. I appreciate the post itself (and the rest of the blog as well).


  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    I can also recognize what a pathetic figure [Dennis Rodman’s] been since he retired.

    True, but he’s actually doing far better than I anticipated.

  • katie

    It’s not all that weird, it’s just that Americans tend to forget these days that soft power is a thing. We can’t (and shouldn’t) bomb everybody. A sports-focused charm offensive might actually make some headway.

  • Area Man

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if it turned out that he was leading an elite assassination squad to eliminate the Kims? I would totally pay to see that movie.

  • iangould

    “BTW, is it just me, or does Vice Media sound like a great name for a porn studio?”

    Is it just me or does Rodman sound like a porn name?

  • otrame

    I used to love watching Rodman play. We all have a ballistics computer in our heads, but his seemed to be especially formulated to calculate where that ball will go if it doesn’t go in. And he was pretty much always there. It was fascinating.

    Of course, he has some issues. I hate it when very talented people destroy themselves. Well, I hate it when anyone destroys themselves, but in cases like Rodman and many others, it is painful to watch.

  • lancifer

    Dennis Rodman in North Korea.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • democommie

    “I will not give one red cent of my money to the Kim family. And you shouldn’t either.”

    or any of the OTHER Kardashians, for that matter!

    The idea of deliberately watching a show featurning Dennis Rodman without nine other tall, athletic men performing in a public venue (even if I owned a teevee) is beyond fantasy.