Paddy Power Pulls Rodman N.Korea Basketball Backing

Paddy Power has long been known for sponsoring events as PR generating stunts rather than as long term genuine sponsors, but did its partnership with Dennis Rodman’s basketball tour of North Korea just go too far?


The Irish bookmaker has a long standing relationship with publicity hungry and controversy seeking Rodman, who is being hosted by North Korea’s Ministry of Physical Culture and Sport on his trip and has often spoken of his friendship with North Korea’s young dictator.


Indeed, when he first went to the country in February 2013, following a controversial nuclear test, Rodman was seen on the trips around the country wearing a Paddy Power baseball cap.


This was followed by the firm backing his latest trip which saw him plan to lead a group of retired NBA players in an exhibition match against North Korea.


The company announced the game and added:


‘Paddy Power has an existing relationship with basketball legend Dennis Rodman and is supporting him, at his request, in his mission of basketball diplomacy,’ said a Paddy Power spokesperson.


‘In this regard, we have sought guidance and taken advice from International Crisis Group, a well-regarded NGO with an established track record in North Korea.’


Yet, despite its initial support for Rodman’s venture, the Irish bookmaker withdrew its sponsorship in response to “recent events” and said that it does not want to be “associated” with the military dictatorship.


Perhaps the recent purge/execution/murder of a political rival and family member proved too much even for Paddy Power.


‘It was really a reaction to the worldwide focus and total condemnation of the North Korean regime over recent events,’ the Irish betting firm said in a statement. ‘We don’t want to be associated with that.’




Was Paddy Power’s North Korea basketball sponsorship a step too far?


Certainly the Irish bookmaker has been heavily criticised by human rights campaigners for sponsoring a trip to North Korea by the retired American basketball star’s venture.


Whilst Rodman, 52, on arrival in Pyongyang still insisting that he was not there to ‘be a diplomat’ and that he would simply be engaging in what he described as ‘basketball diplomacy, the bookie was pulling its sponsorship of the trip and rolling back on its previous decisions.


Ben Rogers, a North Korea expert with UK-based human rights campaign group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, suggested that the trip looked like a publicity stunt.


‘If Dennis Rodman really feels it is right to be going to North Korea, he is a wealthy enough man to pay for it himself. I don’t know quite why it’s being sponsored by a company,’ comments Rogers.


‘I am not opposed to engagement with the North Korean regime – I have taken part in it myself. But it has to be a critical and robust engagement, and I would have much preferred Robert King, the US ambassador, to go there than Dennis Rodman.’
‘It does really remove any possible vestiges of seriousness that they [Paddy Power] had.’


While Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said international attention should be focused on North Korea’s dire human rights record and not on basketball and celebrity.


‘It’s a depressing truth that Dennis Rodman has had more contact with the North Korean leader than any diplomat or observer in the last year, and any public figure has a responsibility to raise the country’s appalling human rights record,’ she said.




Paddy Power Website


Dennis Rodman Website



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