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Dennis Rodman apologizes for rant on American held captive in N. Korea

Jan. 9, 2014 at 10:49 AM   |   Comments

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PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Former NBA player Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday for his rant about an American citizen held in North Korea, blaming the outburst on stress and booze.

On Tuesday, in an interview with CNN, Rodman drew heavy criticism for suggesting Kenneth Bae, held in North Korea since 2012, may have done something wrong to receive a sentence of 15 years of hard labor.

"I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family," Rodman said Thursday in a statement released by publicist Jules Feiler. "I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to [CNN news personality] Chris Cuomo."

Rodman has been in North Korea this week for an exhibition game with other former NBA stars against a North Korean team Wednesday, the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un. Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim before the game.

Rodman blamed his outburst and sometimes incoherent interview with CNN on stress.

"I embarrassed a lot of people," he said. "I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

"Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates," Rodman said, adding his basketball diplomacy dream "was quickly falling apart."

"I had been drinking," he said. "It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed."

Rodman and some of the other former NBA players reportedly were skiing in North Korea Thursday after the exhibition ball game, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Rodman played in the first half of the game against North Korean players then watched the second half sitting next to Kim.

Western tourists who attended the game in Pyongyang told reporters at the Beijing airport that Rodman and some of the players were still in North Korea.

"I believe that some of the players are going to ski," Xinhua quoted one tourist as saying.

North Korea recently completed the Masik Pass Ski Resort as a pet project for Kim, Xinhua said.

Bae's family said Wednesday they were floored by Rodman's comments about the captive American. His sister, Terri Chung, said Bae, a missionary, was in North Korea legally as a tour operator when he was arrested in November 2012. Bae was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp by North Korea last year on charges he intended to topple the government through religious activities.

"He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth," Chung said Tuesday. "He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."

The NBA and the U.S. government both said they weren't involved with Rodman's visit to North Korea, his fourth in less than a year. The Irish online betting company that had backed the trip withdrew its name after North Korea announced that Kim's once powerful uncle had been purged and executed.

Human rights activists have criticized Rodman for his friendship with Kim and apparent unwillingness to address the regime's reported abuses against its population.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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