Former basketball star Dennis Rodman has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his unlikely and controversial role in promoting international relations with North Korea and “friend for life” dictator Kim Jong-un.
The eccentric sports icon accepted the award via satellite during the ceremony in Norway’s capital, Oslo. The prize committee praised Rodman for working to end the simmering conflict between isolated North Korea, the United States and the world community through “basketball diplomacy.”
“I accept this award on behalf of the North Korean people and my good friend, Kim Jong-un, who has worked tirelessly to promote peace between his country and the rest of the world,” Rodman said. “Mr. Kim, I dedicate this award to you.”
Rodman was among a record 259 nominees from around the world for the prestigious award, which each year is given to those who have worked toward peace and fraternity between nations. Other nominees included Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks; 16-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban militants; and hip-hop performer Kanye West for “single-handedly inspiring millions of people to rise up from a life of mediocrity to become as wonderful and perfect as he is.”
Rodman first visited North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters and Vice Media earlier this year to play a game with the national basketball team. He has visited the country twice and has reportedly developed a close relation with the secretive Kim Jong-un, whom he describes as a “good dad.”
Shortly afterward Rodman, 52, announced plans to move to the totalitarian communist dictatorship and coach its basketball team.
During the Nobel Prize ceremony, Rodman received a diploma, a medal and $1.2 million. Rodman said he plans to donate the money toward building a new sports training facility in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
“Everyone called me naïve and crazy to go to one of the scariest places in the world and hang out with one of the most dangerous men in the world,” Rodman said. “Well, all I can say now is, who’s having the last laugh?”
Good and bad choices
Rodman now joins a prestigious list of past Nobel Peace Prize winners, which include South African leader Nelson Mandela, the 14th Dalai Lama, Burmese leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, microfinance banker Muhammad Yunus and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.
However, immediate response to his honor was mixed.
“Rodman’s win is outrageous thing I have ever heard,” said former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a 1973 winner. “How can you have peace with a country unless you invade and bomb the hell out of it? Diplomacy isn’t just about talking to people.”
In a statement, President Barack Obama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 early in his first term, congratulated Rodman.
“Even though Mr. Rodman has not really done anything to end the diplomatic tension between our two nations, at least he is trying,” Obama said. “As we all know, sometimes the promise and expectation that you’ll do something positive is good enough.”