NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman is under fire for his recent comments about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. In recent weeks, Rodman has made several international headlines over his trips to the communist country, sparking concern and curiosity about the reasoning for the visits.
Now in the wake of the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was arrested and sentenced to hard labor in North Korea after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster, a petition has surfaced calling for the NBA to remove Rodman from the Hall of Fame for his relationship with North Korea and their leader.
“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,” Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation 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,” the statement continued.
“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.”
Two months into his sentence, Warmbier fell ill and slipped into a coma. A year and a half later, Warmbier was released and taken to an American hospital, where he died six days later. Although some American officials blame North Korea for his death, the country said the coma was a result of botulism and a sleeping pill.
“[Rodman’s removal from the Hall of Fame] would, of course, be symbolically important right now,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports. “It was truly interesting that the Dennis Rodman happened to be in North Korea at the same time Otto Warmbier was released. That’s what these kinds of regimes do. They use pop culture figures to distract people when they have something negative in the press.”
“I think people should be outraged that North Korea killed an American,” Smith said. “Torturing Americans is nothing new. We have seen China hasn’t had much influence. We can’t allow people in our society to be friendly with a regime that is killing Americans.”
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has yet to comment.