Dennis Rodman's basketball exhibition in North Korea has taken on national attention, turning what was supposed to be a birthday present to his "friend," North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, into a controversial issue. In the midst of scrutiny, NBA commissioner David Stern distanced the NBA from the overseas excursion. He released a strong statement, clarifying the NBA would not "participate or support" the event and did not believe it could help bridge "cultural divides," according to The Associated Press:
"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," he said in a statement. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."
The National Basketball Retired Players Association took the same stance as Stern, releasing a statement that they also do not support Rodman's decision and have no affiliation with the game, via The Associated Press:
"While we support international goodwill and diplomacy in instances deemed appropriate by our Board of Directors, it is important to clarify that the trip to North Korea led by Dennis Rodman and others was not sanctioned by the NBRPA and is not supported by our organization in any way," said NBRPA chairman of the board Otis Birdsong, a four-time NBA All-Star. "Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances. Standing alongside our partners at the NBA, we do not condone the basketball activities to be conducted in North Korea this week."
Rodman's decision to take a basketball team to North Korea is under fire because of cultural and political differences. Charles Smith, one of the former NBA players that Rodman was able to convince to join him in his trip, has discussed feeling "remorse" for agreeing to play in the game after the negative spin the exhibition game has taken.
Rodman and his team were interviewed on CNN to discuss their intentions, resulting in Rodman becoming emotional and creating more controversy as he repeatedly called Kim Jong Un his "friend" while also dismissing other issues involved with North Korea.