Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Defense of Dennis Rodman

By Robert Wenzel

Dennis Rodman is one strange dude.

I once visited a club he had in Chicago, during the days of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls championship years. The crowd was the strangest crowd I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a convention of a secret transvestite subchapter of the Hell's Angels.

Despite his strangeness, Rodman did have an influence on the nation by being the first to cover his body with tattoos. For whatever reason, millions have followed Rodman into getting inked-up bodies. Prior to Rodman's tattoos, they were mostly worn just by merchant sailors--and only one, on the arm.

But Rodman, his pro basketball playing days well behind him, is now in the national spotlight for playing exhibition games in North Korea at the invitation of  NK's leader, the crazed Kim Jong-un.

I am sure he is doing it for the money. He spends money like, well, a drunken tattooed sailor.

In Chicago, during the Bulls championship runs, Rodman, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan would occasionally dine at Tavern on Rush. The wait staff there had a name for Pippen, "No tippin' Pippen." He would leave 5% tips. Jordan would tip 25% and the waiters would fight to wait on Rodman. You could make a months worth of earnings by waiting on Rodman. He would ask all kinds of favors, but he would pay up. If he wanted a waiter to get him a cigar, he tipped $100 for the cigar.

Chris Cuomo did an attack interview with Rodman about his trip to North Korea. He asked Rodman why he wasn't doing anything to attempt get the American Kenneth Bae, who is imprisoned in North Korea, free. Rodman attempted to explain to Cuomo that he wasn't a diplomat, just a basketball player, but Cuomo wouldn't have any of it. Now, admittedly, Rodman's replies to Cuomo were quite inarticulate.  But, this doesn't mean Rodman isn't a shrewd guy. I once had a conversation with him mostly about women, in Chicago's Whiskey Bar, and the guy has serious game.

This, btw, is in contrast to Michael Jordan, who could certainly get his share of women, because he was, after all, Michael Jordan, but he had no rap. Jordan spent many a cold winter night in Chicago trying to get in the sack with Christy Sweet, a stunning and smart bartender who then worked at a club called Narcisse. It never happened for Jordan.

But back to Rodman, though inarticulate in his responses, he did make the wise comment that his exhibition games, in a tiny way, may open up North Korea just a bit. And, indeed, study history and it becomes clear that free trade is a peacemaker. He was also wise to stay away from international politics, which he clearly understands he has no expertise in. But, CNN's Cuomo would have none of it. Then, CNN's Anderson Cooper piled on Tuesday night with more attacks on Rodman. It makes you wonder, when Cooper, the "former"-CIA guy, promotes the hell out of a story that could very well be ignored. Could the CIA actually have a problem with opening up relations with North Korea, if only a tiny bit with Rodman's exhibition games?

Then there's NBA commissioner David Stern, who issued a statement that said  "The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department. Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."

Approval of the State Department? WTF?

I note that this statement comes from the commissioner of a league that plays the national anthem before each game of a country that has imprisoned whisteblower Chelsea Manning and has caused Edward Sowden to flee the United States for Russia. Maybe Stern should stop worrying about what a former NBA player is doing in North Korea and look in the mirror and think about the government actions of the country that he allows to be saluted before every NBA game.

Stern piled on during a television interview (on, surprise, CNN) when he told Wolf Blitzer  “Dennis will be Dennis. But I think there's a lot at stake here in terms of a country that has — a very dangerous country.”

Maybe Stern should ask Afghans and Iraqis which country they think is dangerous.

Stern also said he believes "a flash of North Korean money" has blinded Rodman. This comes from the commissioner of a league that regularly shakesdown cities to construct arenas. The built arenas ultimately shuffle huge profits that go into the pockets of the owners of NBA teams.

Bottom line: I find Stern's statements outrageous, and his State Department line much more dangerous than anything Rodman has said or done.

And, CNN, what can you say about CNN that hasn't been said before? It is a mouthpiece for the US government and heaven forbid a series of exhibition basketball games go on in a country that is not in the good graces of the USG. It all reminds of the Bobby Fisher saga and his willingness to thumb his nose at the USG and play a chess match in Yugoslavia.

Rodman, like Fisher, has done nothing but thumb his nose at the USG list of bad guys and is willing to ply his profession where he is called.

Dennis, keep up the peacemaking free trade!

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on  iphone and stitcher.


  1. I want the story of the conversation you had with Dennis Rodman about women!!!

    1. The very short version is, don't chase them, let them come to you.

  2. I like Rodman for his outrageousness. Rodman shocks the professionalism out of the league, reminding middle-class clients that it is a game and that Rodman plays to win. I like it. I like Rodman's reaching out, too, opening doors and paving the way for all sorts of business opportunities. Ex-basketball players are looking for lucrative gigs in and outside of basketball in other countries, any countries that want to play host and are looking for brand name players. Remember how Kobe Bryant was mobbed in China during the Olympics in 2008? A lot of great players have had decent careers outside the NBA in other countries. If the NBA blocks out former players from coaching because they don't fit the image and if N. Korea or China comes knocking, why not? I've seen Chinese professional basketball players play. The players are very athletic and it seemed the conditioning may even been better, though how anybody could be better trained than Kobe Bryant is beyond me. But that was one thing I noticed about the Chinese professional league--players from around the world and very athletic. Not a lot of marquee players. Just guys willing to train hard, play hard, run the ball up and down the court, and win. On average, the players seemed to be a few inches smaller than NBA players, but the mechanics, the free-flow of spontaneous play and exploiting the opposition's weaknesses, and court awareness thoroughly impressed me. Contrast that with the Lakers waiting on Shaquil O'Neill to come trotting down the court and setting up plays around him or other marquee players. It was exciting to watch. Some former NBA players in the league, too. The only the thing that the Chinese lacked was the panache the NBA has built for itself.

  3. Perfect response, Bob. When someone is vilified by the press for something like this, I always question the motivation. Mariah Carey sings for dictators, but it is never front page news, let alone still talked about 3 days later.

  4. Guess Cuomo, Cooper, Stern et al just want to feed Rodman to the dogs.

  5. "Tatted up" would be the modern lingo Mr. Bob.

  6. Rodman banged Carmen Electra. Think about that.

    You know he has to have serious game.

  7. Dennis Rodman is one strange dude.
    And he banged Madonna too.
    Be that as it may, I would rather hang out in a foreign country with Rodman than with a "State Department Approved"
    apparachik like Hillary Clinton or John Kerry.
    Less violence......more swag.

  8. It was Madonna who taught Rodman how to promote himself. He first dyed his hair blond while dating her. The attention was addictive and profitable. It wasn't long after that he was wearing dresses and trying to bang Dan Patrick. To the stars and beyond!