Rainmen coach denied entry into North Korea before controversial game
HALIFAX – Halifax Rainmen coach Craig Hodges was supposed to be playing in a controversial basketball game in North Korea Wednesday, but instead was back in Halifax leading his team’s practice.
Hodges was one of a handful of former NBA players invited by Dennis Rodman on a trip to mark the birthday of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
“I was looking forward to the opportunity of going and helping Dennis, as far as the basketball end of things,” Hodges told Global News.
Hodges said he was en route to Pyongyang on the weekend, but his connecting flight into Beijing was delayed by a day due to poor weather conditions in Canada, and the rest of the group had already entered North Korea.
When Hodges arrived in Beijing, he said he was promptly denied entry due to a documentation problem.
“I was in China 20 minutes,” he said. “At the 20-minute point, two guys walked up to me and told me I had to go get back on the plane and they escorted me back to the plane and I got back on and flew 13 hours back.”
The trip has been heavily criticized because of North Korea’s oppressive regime and poor human rights record.
However, Hodges said his decision to go was based on his love of basketball and his wish to share it with others. The former NBA all-star is also a close friend of Rodman’s.
“I’m for human rights, and so going to North Korea wasn’t a matter of me going to rub political shoulders with the man that’s in power. It was as a goodwill gesture, as a brotherhood — a brotherhood of sport,” he said.
Hodges said he’s disappointed the trip was harshly criticized.
“Right now, the guys are still there so I’d rather not comment on too much of what’s going on,” he said. “The main thing is that I hope everything comes out safely for the guys because they’re my colleagues and they’re my buddies.”
The exhibition game in Pyongyang went ahead on Wednesday, with Rodman singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the North Korean leader and dedicating the game to him.
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