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North Korea did not pay ex-NBA players' for their diplomacy visit

Jan. 12, 2014 at 11:49 AM

ATLANTA, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The former NBA stars who went to North Korea for a basketball diplomacy trip were not paid by the regime, player Charles Smith said.

"Absolutely not. I think I am astute enough to understand the dynamics, especially collecting monetary dollars from North Korea. No, we did not get paid from North Korea at all," he told CNN Sunday.

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Smith said an Irish online betting company and a documentary film paid for the six players' expenses.

The players exchanged cultural information with other athletes and citizens, but didn't go to any areas where people were suffering, he said.

Smith, who retired in 1997, said he sympathized with Dennis Rodman, who led the event and was criticized for visiting the repressive country.

"I saw the pressure mount. I saw him change, and it was very difficult keeping him and everyone together" once controversy began over traveling to North Korea, he said.

Smith said he has no regrets about participating in the trip.

"We accomplished a relationship on the sports side in North Korea," he said. "Where it goes from there, I do not know at this point in time. But we established a relationship."

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