Dennis Rodman: Hall of Fame basketball player, eccentric fashionista, and now, maybe, an FBI tipster.
Yes, the former Chicago Bulls star, who recently visited North Korea and hung out with supreme leader Kim Jong Un, is now saying the Federal Bureau of Investigation has asked him for any intel he picked up on that trip.
"I have been contacted by the FBI and I met with them," Rodman told the Miami Herald. "They wanted to know what went on and who's really in charge in North Korea. I have been invited back to North Korea in August and I want to go."
Back in February, Rodman visited North Korea as part of a "basketball dipomacy" mission organized by Vice. The visit garnered plenty of press, not least because Rodman, with his typically garish attire and off-court antics, hardly fit the bill as a diplomat.
The White House condemned the trip and Rodman himself, and said that North Korea should be more concerned with caring for its citizens than hosting "celebrity sporting events." Rodman, for his part, hailed Kim as a "good guy" and a "friend" upon his return to the States.
In his interview with the Herald, Rodman insisted that he is not naive.
"I'm not a total idiot. I know what Kim Jong Un is threatening to do regarding his military muscle," he said. "I hope it doesn't happen because America will take whatever actions to protect America and our allies."
If Rodman as diplomat strains credulity, Rodman as FBI informant nearly snaps it in half. He's shown little understanding of the delicate diplomacy between the two nations, fumbling his way through an interview with ABC News in which George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed him about North Korea's poor human rights record. And neither the FBI nor anyone else in Washington has confirmed Rodman's account of his FBI interview, so it's certainly possible that it was a actually a routine, mundane meeting.
"[I]nformants are usually reliable sources who have some clear understanding of the situation they are getting into," notes SportsGrid's Eric Goldschein. "It’s not a stretch to say Rodman satisfies none of those requirements."
Plus, Rodman is scheduled to go back to North Korea in August to, as he put it, "just hang and have some fun." What kind of secret agent would blow his own cover months in advance of his next mission?
"You have to wonder if knowledge of Rodman talking to the FBI about his time in North Korea and what knowledge he has of the regime there could end up hurting his chances at cashing in on that second invitation for a return visit in August," says CBS Sports' Zach Harper. "He seems pretty confident at maintaining his relationship with Kim Jong Un and trying to figure out a truce of some sort."
However, it should be noted that Rodman is one of the few Americans to have gained access to Kim since he took power. For the U.S. government, which is hungry for any information about the mercurial leader, any insight Rodman might have could prove to be valuable.
But he may be overstating his importance. If Rodman does make it back to North Korea as planned, he hopes he can help mediate the stalled peace talks between the two countries.
"I do think, umm, you know, that we have to talk to people who want to cause us harm so hopefully they won't. I've been talking to folks for years who don't get what I'm about but that's cool, 'cause once they walk away they like me," he told the Herald's Lesley Abravanel. "I might be able to keep folks' heads cool. We all going to find a way to get along and keep peace. Peace and love is where it is at, Lesley."
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