Petition calls for Dennis Rodman to be removed from Hall of Fame
(CNN) — Dennis Rodman’s role as self-appointed goodwill ambassador to North Korea is not earning him rave reviews.
A few days after his latest visit to the reclusive state, a human rights group has started a petition seeking his removal from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The petition follows the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea for 17 months. Warmbier arrived in the United States in a coma last week and died Monday.
The former NBA star arrived in Pyongyang the same day news broke that Warmbier had been released. US officials have said there’s no connection between his visit and the student’s release.
Rodman has visited North Korea several times and has praised on its dictator Kim Jong-un.
Rights group Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation started a petition on change.org calling for the NBA to remove Rodman from the Hall of Fame.
“Otto Warmbier was murdered by the North Korean regime,” said Marion Smith, director of the rights group.
“The barbarous treatment received by this young American at the hands of his North Korean captors is sadly not a unique act. North Korea’s government has a record of forcing innocent American tourists into decades of hard labor and of beating and torturing them to the point of death.”
Smith accused Rodman of “coddling” Kim, whom the former basketball player has described as a “friend for life.”
“Removing Rodman from the Hall of Fame will send a message that all Americans are united against this regime,” Smith said.
Return from North Korea
The five-time NBA champion has traveled to North Korea for informal “basketball diplomacy” several times, and told CNN last week that he hoped to do “something that’s pretty positive.”
While calls demanding his removal from the Hall of Fame are growing, its unclear whether they’ll have any effect.
Sports Hall of Fame rarely removes members. Former NFL player O.J. Simpson remains in the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite a murder accusation and a conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping.
Rodman set a record by leading the NBA in rebounds per game for seven consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1998, according to the Hall of Fame.