North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was willing to open talks with the United States five years ago and asked former NBA star Dennis Rodman to deliver the message to then-U.S. President Barack Obama. But Obama wouldn’t listen, Rodman said.
Rodman traveled to North Korea several times in 2013 and 2014 for basketball exhibitions and met with Kim and other top people in the regime multiple times. During one of the meetings, Kim asked him to relay a message to Obama, Rodman told CNN on June 12 Singapore time.
According to Rodman, Kim said he’d be “willing to talk” to Obama under certain conditions. Rodman didn’t explain the conditions in detail, only mentioning that moving “ships” back from South Korea was part of them.
Rodman says he tried to deliver the message to Obama, but was met with rejection. “Obama didn’t even give me the time of day,” he said, later adding, “He just brushed me off.”
Rodman spoke from Singapore, where he was to witness the historic summit between Kim and President Donald Trump—the first-ever meeting between leaders of the two countries. The two signed a joint statement reaffirming North Korea’s commitment to giving up nuclear weapons. Trump agreed to provide “security guarantees” to North Korea, and both countries agreed to renew relations and meet again.
“Today is a great day for everybody,” said Rodman, adding, “I’m so happy.”
Rodman said he was oblivious to the horrors of the communist dictatorship when he first visited North Korea.
“I thought it was just another one of those things that I was just doing, some charity event,” he said. “I knew nothing about North Korea. I just thought I was going to play basketball and just treat the people and be happy and that was it.”
He said Kim always treated him as a friend. He characterized Kim as “not a dumb man” and “more like a big kid.”
Rodman said he wants to stay out of politics, but that his attempts to establish a connection on a human level perhaps played some role in making the Trump–Kim summit possible.
Rodman traveled to North Korea again in June 2017. He didn’t meet Kim, but met with the minister of sports. He brought several gifts for Kim, including two signed basketball jerseys, two soap sets, and a copy of Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal.”
“Donald Trump should take a lot of credit for this because he went out the box and made this happen,” said Rodman, who was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign.
He said the Trump administration didn’t ask him to play any role in the Singapore summit.
“I just wanted to see it get done so we all can live good together,” Rodman said. “No hatred. No more hatred.”
Trump told reporters on June 7 that Rodman wasn’t invited to the summit.
“He wasn’t, but I like Dennis. A great rebounder. You know when you think—Dennis was a great rebounder and he wasn’t, relatively speaking, that tall,” Trump said. “So that tells you. You know, there’s a rebounding—there’s a genius for that.” Rodman is known for being one of the best rebounders in NBA history.
While in Singapore, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Rodman to pass thanks from Trump.
Commenting on the recent developments, Rodman said, “Let’s just hope for the best. … We don’t need a miracle. We don’t need a miracle. We just need the doors to be open so we can start fresh and make this a better place in the world, baby. That’s it.”
Update: The article was updated with the call to Dennis Rodman from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.