With criticism mounting over Dennis Rodman's effort to stage an exhibition basketball game in North Korea in honor of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's birthday, former NBA star Charles Smith, who will play in the game, says people are misunderstanding their intentions.
"What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it," Smith told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government."
Smith, Rodman and a handful of other former NBA players are scheduled to play against a team of North Koreans in a game on Wednesday.
Rodman has called Kim his friend for life and insists the leader is misunderstood.
"Some of the statements and things that Dennis has said has tainted our efforts," Smith said. "Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on -- he gets emotional and he says things that he'll apologize for later. I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it's a lot bigger than us. We are not naive, we understand why things are being portrayed the way they are. We can't do anything about that; if we could, we would."
NBA Commissioner David Stern released a statement Monday making sure everyone knows the league has no involvement whatsoever with the game.
"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," Stern said. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."