With Dennis Rodman’s expansion of his “basketball diplomacy” efforts to North Korea into an entire delegation of former NBA players, the roster is made up of interesting and questionable characters. Among the players set to play in Pyongyang include the ex-spouse of one of the Basketball Wives (Kenny Anderson) and soon-to-be adult-film producer (Doug Christie). But perhaps the most befuddling participant would be Craig Hodges, who regarded himself as an activist against injustice but seems to have little issue with performing before the nation’s murderous dictator in a startling act of hypocrisy.
For starters, as a member of the champion Chicago Bulls, three-point specialist Hodges was invited to the White House by George H. W. Bush in 1992. Vocal about political issues during his time in the league, a dashiki-donning Hodges handed the president a letter asking him to help “those less fortunate” and to address issues of poverty, racial injustice, the Gulf War, and other grievances with the administrations.
Hodges did not return to the Bulls the following season, or the NBA for that matter, and he cited his political activism as the reason. A few years later, he filed a $40-million lawsuit against the NBA for blackballing him because of his outspokenness, as well as his association with Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan to address issues within the African-American community. He also called out Michael Jordan and other top athletes who “failed to use their considerable wealth and influence to assist the poor and disenfranchised,” which he believed also played a role in his ouster from the league. At one point, Hodges also suggested players sit out games to protest the NBA’s lack of play coaches. Officials within the league have denied any such conspiracy against Hodges, instead pointing to his declining performance and age as reasons he was not signed by any team.
His willingness to take part in Kim’s celebration suggests that Hodges’ concerns about “those less fortunate” and “disenfranchised” must be only for those within American borders. The horror stories of North Korea’s brutal regime — from prison camps to executions to massive famine — are much more egregious and abhorrent than anything faced in the United States; Hodges’ confrontation with his nation’s leader would have been a fatal move had it taken place in North Korea. A once-vocal advocate who accused his peers as well as his president of looking the other way on injustices he saw in his own country, Hodges has remained noticeably silent as he travels to — and is celebrated in — arguably the worst place in the world.