Paid by North Korea for a little basketball diplomacy? Not at all, says Charles Smith, a retired NBA veteran who joined Dennis Rodman and other former players on a trip to Pyongyang. "Absolutely not," Smith told CNN in an exclusive interview. "I think I am astute enough to understand the dynamics, especially collecting monetary dollars from North Korea." Smith said the players were paid by a documentary film crew and an Irish online betting company called Paddy Power.
Dennis Rodman's agent echoed Smith's assessment, the AP reports, but the funding question is somewhat clouded by the fact that Paddy Power backed out of the trip last month after Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed. NBA commissioner David Stern stoked the flames the other day by saying Rodman was "blinded by the payday" in visiting a "very dangerous country," notes Bleacher Report. But Smith said he had no regrets, and got to meet North Korean citizens—including one who had never met a black man before and tried to rub the color off his hand. "Then the next day after we talked for a while, he came up to me and said he was sorry," said Smith.