By Chuck Wright, Heatherstone Division.
James Donaldson (Ex Sonic, NBA All Star and owner of the Mill Creek small business; The Donaldson Clinic) had some very interesting things to say about Dennis Rodman’s recent trip to North Korea in his January 8, 2014, blog and in a subsequent conversation with me.
Based on my long-term friendship with James, a very educated man, I know he is a firm believer in keeping an open mind, listening, and talking with individuals with different views than his. He believes these are the best avenues to achieve change.
Since James has visited North Korea on two separate occasions, his thoughts have more credibility than the majority of other individuals who have commented about Rodman’s trip. Here are some of his thoughts regarding Rodman, the self-defined basketball “ambassador” to North Korea.
After hearing of Rodman’s recent antics in North Korea, James wrote in his blog that he was glad that he declined to go along on the trip:
“Well, it’s all over the news this week that flamboyant, former NBA Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman headed back to North Korea along with a team of former NBA players to conduct an exhibition game as part of the birthday celebrating of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. I was one of those invited (by one of Rodman’s ‘people’) to be part of the delegation of former players to go along on this trip, but due to a schedule conflict, I wasn’t able to participate.”
“I too am surprised by the ‘craziness’ of this whole circus act that is going on for the last year with Dennis Rodman and North Korea.”
Ever since James turned down Rodman’s invitation to join him as one of the NBA players to play the exhibition game in North Korea, he has been asked repeatedly why he might be interested in going with Rodman the next time. He answered this question in his blog, “Well, for starters, I was actually the first former NBA player to visit North Korea back in November 2012 (I believe Rodman’s first visit was in January/February 2013). I went along with a nonprofit humanitarian group that has been going in and out of North Korea perhaps 2-3 times per year over the last 20 years, as they do a lot of good work pertaining to infrastructure building, agricultural development, irrigation systems, food aid and the like. I met with the same sports/basketball officials that I see Rodman being hosted by.”
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people doing a lot of really good things (behind the scenes) in and with North Korea. I’m happy to say that now, I’m a board member with that nonprofit humanitarian group which is named, Global Resources Services, www.GRSWorld.org (donations are much needed and appreciated!) and headed by a truly remarkable man, Mr. Rob Springs…”
“So, that was my interest in wanting to go along with Dennis Rodman. But, the experts on our board really wanted me to be careful if I did go along, and thank God, that didn’t come to pass.”
“Actually, the schedule conflict that I had, was this week in China I was being awarded a ‘Person of the Year’ honor for a lot of my outstanding work that I do in China with the Chinese youth in regards to encouraging them and inspiring them to be the ‘best they can be,’ and also inviting them to participate in study abroad opportunities in the USA, as well as short term/long term cultural exchange programs. I’m also working on bringing former NBA players to China for basketball related opportunities.”
The team members that went with Rodman to North Koran seem to now be tainted and this is a concern for James Donaldson. This 7’ 3” All Star wants us to think about the fact that, “All of the guys on the trip with Rodman are great guys. I’m sure that they didn’t expect the backlash and controversy.“
“Charles Smith, the former New York Knick, and from all appearances, the ‘rational spokesman’ for the group, is a dear friend of mine, and we worked together over the years with the former NBA players with the NBA Retired Players Association (he was Executive Director and I was a board member), and we’re still working together to assist former NBA players with their transitions into real, everyday life (this is some of that real, everyday life stuff the guys are going through now).”
“Charles has said ‘all of the right things’ but it’s all getting lost in the craziness that surrounds and follows Dennis Rodman everywhere he goes. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m sure that Charles and the guys were just doing Dennis ‘a favor’ by accompanying him to North Korea, since Dennis is always reliable and willing to be the ‘headliner’ for the many exhibition games that the former NBA players play in around the world.”
“Even here in China, Dennis Rodman is the most requested headliner name that the Chinese people want to have as part of the exhibition games that we do here. I know it wasn’t about the money, because the money that I was offered (as well as the rest of the guys) was basically a round trip business class airplane ticket, and barely enough money to purchase the round trip ticket if one had to.”
James, being a stubborn optimist, goes on to write, “I’m still holding out hope that something good can come out of all of this, and if not, it’s a wasted opportunity that was filled with tremendous potential at one point. After all, not many people get a chance to be invited into a ‘closed society’ and actually become best friends with the head honcho.”
So, it was true to form for him when he wrote that it is important to build bridges with North Korea, “Sometimes, the initial efforts to begin something new are painful. Just look at the civil rights movement, ending apartheid, same sex rights, women voting, President Obama’s Middle East tours…and so it is with North Korea. We don’t know how it’ll all play out, but we can hope for the best and ‘keep hope alive’... And, keep on trying.”