Former Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman is facing a backlash among basketball fans for his controversial support of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Rodman’s visits to the communist nation sparked a petition to have him cashiered from the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The former NBA player’s latest visit coincided with the secretive nation’s release of American tourist Otto Warmbier, who was returned to the U.S. after almost a year and a half in captivity.
Only days after he returned, the captive’s family announced Otto’s death after he was returned home in a vegetative state due to injuries he received from being tortured in a North Korean jail.
Rodman has visited North Korean several times as a guest of the dictator, Jong-un.
During one of those visits the eccentric player even said he and the tyrant were “friends for life.”
But the death of Warmbier and Rodman’s continued support of the student’s murderer was apparently the final straw for human rights group Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. The group just launched a petition at Change.org to have Rodman removed from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The petition, entitled “Eject Star NBA Player Dennis Rodman from the Hall of Fame,” has almost reached its goal of 1,500 supporters.
“The North Korean regime is one of the most brutal communist dictatorships in the world, starving its people, constantly threatening nuclear war, and now, murdering an American citizen,” the petition reads. “Almost unanimously, the world’s leaders continue to come together to condemn the regime while a select few attempt to humanize Kim Jong-un and praise the “respect” he receives from his people.”
“While those sort of attempts are expected from fellow dictators it is appalling that they come from a once household name in American sports,” the petition continues. “Former NBA star and Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman has embraced North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as a ‘friend for life’ and asserted ‘I love him’ as he defended his human rights record. Rodman continued this one-man PR campaign for North Korea even as his fellow American Otto Warmbier fought for his life.”
The group is calling for Rodman to be removed from the Hall to “send a message that all facets of American society, from sports to politics, will stand firm for our shared values and reject the shameless coddling of murderous dictatorial regimes.”
According to CNN, the petition may not have much effect on the Hall of Fame. Few players are removed once inducted.
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