Dennis Rodman is doing something stupid. Matt Cooper isn’t being very smart by joining him. The same can be said for most of the party in Pyongyang for a basketball exhibition. Craig Hodges however is a big outlier. How does a man of such strong political will make such an awful choice?
Most of the gang of Dennis Rodman’s buddies playing hoops in Pyongyang read like a list of guys likely to go to Pyongyang with the Worm for a payday. Vin Baker, Kenny Anderson, and Cliff ‘totally open about making a porno with my wife’ Robinson are just the characters you’d expect to get caught in something like this. The game is being covered by Irish journalist Matt Cooper, who presents drivetime current affairs show The Last Word and fronts TV3’s live GAA coverage. Cooper’s involvement has caught some scrutiny in the Irish media today but given that all news is local, the man about whom we should be asking the most questions is subject to the fewest.
Craig Hodges had a pretty good career for a lifelong NBA back-up. He won the All Star 3-point contest three times, a feat matched only by Larry Bird, and was runner-up twice. He won the NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991 and 1992. It was that latter win that brought to light something that mattered more than basketball to Hodges. The three-point ace was passionate about the treatment of African Americans. It was an issue he cared deeply for, one he was willing to put his career on the line for. This is a man who backed up his beliefs with actions.
When the Bulls visited the White House after winning the NBA Championship in 1992, Hodges used it as an opportunity for political activism. Wearing a dashiki, he criticized President George HW Bush’s treatment of minorities in America. Hodges never played in the NBA again. Hodges would go on to publicly criticize Michael Jordan for not using his position in the spotlight to do more for African Americans. This was a man who cared about the treatment of others. A man who recognised the influence those in the spotlight could use to cast light and draw attention to those who need it.
So what the hell is Craig Hodges doing in Pyongyang?
Contrary to reports, Kim Jong-Un didn’t feed his uncle to dogs. He did however publicly order his execution. His dictatorial regime keeps somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people in prison camps. Opposition to the state in any and every form is suppressed with brutality. Basically, the regime does a lot of things the Craig Hodges who visited the White House in 1992 would not be cool with.
Rodman is a clown. To call him anything more would be too kind, even if it is to say worse things. He’s a former superstar baller short on cash who knows that doing wild and wacky things can get him some cash. Rodman has openly said he won’t bring up the issue of human rights and the treatment of North Koreans with his ‘friend’ Kim Jong-Un. Craig Hodges should have a problem with that.
This game is a birthday present for the dictator. A way for Rodman to collect a cheque and keep his buddy happy. He’s cutting a few cheques for his buddies in the mean time. Hodges skipped out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he coaches the local Canadian NBL team at no notice to join Rodman on this venture.
I don’t want the Craig Hodges who takes leave from a job he’s had less than a month to head off and make a quick buck with his buddy to take the floor in Pyongyang. That’s not what anyone who cares about what Craig Hodges has done in the past to see happen. I want the man who wore a dashiki and used his moment in the spotlight to question the actions of the most powerful man in the world to take the floor. I want Hodges to recognise what he’s doing and to refuse to be part of the circus. As a baller, there’s no doubt Craig Hodges was an entertainer but there was a time when he knew something mattered more. This week, Craig Hodges needs to remember the man he once was and know he can be that same person again.