*Former NBA star Dennis Rodman was back in North Korea last week and this time he came bearing some unusual gifts.
On Thursday, Rodman gave the country’s sports minister a copy of Donald Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” a present intended for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It wasn’t signed by Trump and Rodman has said his visit has nothing to do with the White House.
His previous visits in 2013 and 2014 certainly drew controversy, but Rodman said this visit was all about meeting old friends and hitting up a few local attractions. As USA Today reports, Dennis and his small entourage have been spending time hanging out with young North Korean basketball players.
Rodman’s arrival last Tuesday came hours after the North decided to release Otto Warmbier, an American university student who had been sentended to 15 years hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Following news of Rodman’s visit, The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation launched a petition on change.org calling for the NBA to remove Rodman’s from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame following his praise and defense of the of North Korean dictator, per MSN.com.
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In the petition, the foundation said that Rodman has consistently defended Jong-un, who he calls his “friend for life”.
“Otto Warmbier was murdered by the North Korean regime. The barbarous treatment received by this young American at the hands of his North Korean captors is sadly not a unique act,” VOC Executive Director Marion Smith said in a statement. “North Korea’s government has a record of forcing innocent American tourists into decades of hard labor and of beating and torturing them to the point of death. Their own people receive the same treatment, or worse, on a daily basis.
“Dennis Rodman’s complacency and coddling of Kim Jong-un romanticizes and makes light of how dangerous North Korea is to its own people and Americans who travel there. Removing Rodman from the Hall of Fame will send a message that all Americans are united against this regime.”
Warmbier, who had been confined for 17 months, died Monday afternoon after reportedly being in a coma for a year. Officials in Washington and Pyongyang said Rodman’s visit had nothing to do with Warmbier going home.