Washington (AFP) – The White House on Thursday ruled out any role for retired basketball star Dennis Rodman — who has formed an unlikely friendship with Kim Jong Un — in next week’s summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump.
Rodman, the former Chicago Bulls forward, has made five trips to Pyongyang since Kim took power and once called the North Korean leader his “friend for life.”
The New York Post said the five-time NBA champion would be in Singapore during the historic meeting of the two heads of state next Tuesday, but a White House spokesman said Rodman would not be part of the meeting.
“I don’t know what part the best rebounder in basketball has to play in that,” spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News. “He is great on the court but negotiations should be left to those who are good at it… Trump is the best.”
Gidley said he expected Trump and Kim to have “an amazing conversation without Dennis Rodman in tow.”
Trump confirmed that Rodman would not be attending the summit, as he met with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I like him. He’s a nice guy. No, he was not invited,” Trump told reporters.
After the summit was first announced in March, Rodman said on Twitter he had “great respect” for both men, noting that he had predicted as early as 2014 a breakthrough in tense US-North Korean ties.
Rodman first visited North Korea in 2013 with members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and in 2014 put together a team of North Korean basketball players for an exhibition match marking Kim’s birthday.
Rodman was even filmed singing “Happy Birthday” to the North Korean strongman.
His last trip was in June 2017 when he gave Kim a copy of Trump’s best-selling book, “The Art of the Deal.”
Rodman, nicknamed “the Worm” when he played in the NBA, also appeared twice on Trump’s pre-presidential reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.”