Dennis Rodman has lost his corporate partner for his upcoming basketball exhibition in North Korea to celebrate the birthday of the repressive regime's young leader, Rodman's "friend for life" Kim Jong Un.
The online betting site Paddy Power announced in an email Monday that it had decided to end its association with Rodman and his planned exhibition basketball game between the North Korean national team and a group of former U.S. players due to "changed circumstances."
"With a bit of hindsight we realized we just got this one wrong," communications director Paddy Power, son of site founder David Power, told The Times in a telephone interview Monday.
"It's the Dennis Rodman gig now," he added.
Rodman returned from his third and most recent visit to North Korea on Monday, apparently without meeting with Kim but telling reporters at the Beijing airport that "I am not worried about it" and "I'll see him again."
He added, "We're going to be playing in two weeks," in reference to the event planned for Jan. 8. It's unclear whether Rodman made the statement before or after losing his partnership with the website, but Power told The Times, "As far as I know, it's going on as planned."
[Updated at 11:45: According to the Associated Press, Rodman's agent said the game is on track. “Dennis is very appreciative of Paddy Power's support up to this point for this historic game of basketball diplomacy taking place on Jan. 8,” Darren Prince said. “He looks forward to announcing later this week the 11 former players accompanying him on the trip next month.”]
Power said that the "changed circumstances" mentioned in the email referred to "worldwide scrutiny of the North Korean regime that wasn't there before recent events."
Earlier this month, Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek — married to Kim's biological aunt and considered to be second in command behind his nephew — was executed for his "anti-state, counterrevolutionary actions" and other crimes including womanizing, drug abuse and gambling, official North Korean media said.