Former New York Knicks' forward Charles Smith has always been known as a well-spoken and intelligent man. He, like the eight other former NBA players, agreed to join Dennis Rodman in hopes that their exhibition game might lead to the doors of North Korea one day opening to outsiders. However, he's now feeling remorse over the trip after their purpose is being clouded by the politics that surround Kim Jong Un and his country.
Kim Jong Il was known as a crazy dictator who ruled North Korea through fear and caused the world to worry over his obsession with nuclear weapons. What's more scary than a crazy dictator hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons? How about the son of a crazy dictator hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons who was raised to be, and has became, a crazy dictator hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons? That's Kim Jong Un.
Trying to open the door, even a crack, to North Korea is an ambitious and worthwhile mission. However, when you think of worthy ambassadors for the United States to send to North Korea names like Gary Locke come to mind. Dennis Rodman is not someone who comes to mind. However, maybe it takes someone crazy like Rodman to appeal to Jong Un.
Make no mistake, no matter how you feel about Rodman the man is genuinely trying to do a good thing by putting this exhibition game on. it's become controversial because the game is being held on Jong Un's birthday and being labeled as a present. It's also controversial because of North Korea's human-rights record and the fact Rodman refuses to get involved in the Kenneth Bae situation.
While those are clearly major issues there's also things to remember about them. First of all, people are offended that the game is being called a gift to Jong Un for his birthday. Rodman looks at it as their way in. It's an excuse to put that game on.
If you tell a man who was told his entire life to keep Western culture out of his country that you want to do exactly the opposite it's not likely to go over well. However, if you present it as a gift for that mad man all of a sudden you stroke his ego and allow him to thing it was his idea.
Second of all, there's not one player who went over there because they support North Korea's human-rights record. In fact, that record makes it all that more important to try to open the doors to that country. Clearly North Korea's actions are not acceptable but if they are left in a vacuum those actions are never going to change. Only new ways of thinking, new ideas and better communication can change things in North Korea.
Third of all, while Kenneth Bae is being held on vague charges labeled as charges of anti-state crimes Rodman is nowhere near qualified to negotiate his release. Rodman is an entertainer, a basketball player and a party animal. That's what he does best. He's not a federal agent who is going to free prisoners, decommission weapons or bring democracy to North Korea. That's just not going to happen.
“What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it,” Smith, best known for failing to convert a sequence of layups in the final seconds of the Knicks’ Game 5 loss in the 1993 Eastern Conference finals against the Bulls, told the AP. “Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government.”
Smith said when he represented the United States in the World Games in 1998 he felt elation, but feels the “reverse” now.
“I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it’s a lot bigger than us,” he said. “We are not naive, we understand why things are being portrayed the way they are. We can’t do anything about that. If we could we would.”
“The way some of the statements and things that Dennis has said has tainted our efforts,” Smith said. “Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on — he gets emotional and he says things that he’ll apologize for later.”
Something else to keep in mind is that these men have put themselves in harms way. Their lives are in danger. Jong Un could have them lined up and shot by a firing squad right on the court. The danger is real.
These men also will have to deal with the backlash that is sure to come when they return home. Do you remember stories of Vietnam vets returning to the states only to be spit on and called names? That could very well be a reality for these ten men.
The sad thing is, these men are really trying to do a good thing. They are trying to make a difference the only way they know how. Their skills are in playing basketball. With sports being a universal thing they are trying to use basketball to open North Korea up to the idea of Western Culture.
Only time will tell if these players go down in history as heros or fools. Probably their biggest downfall was making Rodman their spokesman. Make no mistake, that's exactly why Smith was placed next to him for the interview. However, not even Smith can keep a lid on Rodman who can seemingly boil over at any point.
Hopefully Rodman can keep it together enough to allow these men to return home safely. They went out on a limb, without the support of the NBA or the United States, hoping to make a difference. However, Smith and the others are now learning how costly that risk can be. Hopefully their risk is worth the reward.
- New York Knicks J.R. Smith Shows Immaturity in Latest “shoelace” Incident
- New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith to Return as Starter?
- New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith in Parody Foot Locker Commercial
- New York Knicks Coach Mike Woodson to J.R. Smith: “Grow Up”
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/16pw