North Korea Didn't Pay Us: Ex-NBA Star

Charles Smith: 'I am astute enough' not to take Pyongyang money

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 12, 2014 3:17 PM CST

(Newser) – 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.

Former NBA basketball star Charles Smith is mobbed by journalists on an escalator upon arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing from North Korea, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
In this Dec. 20, 2013, file photo, former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman holds a cigar as he speaks to North Korean basketball players during a practice session in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
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