Former NBA star Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday for his much-criticized outburst about an American citizen imprisoned in North Korea, saying he was stressed out and had been drinking when he made the remarks on CNN.
The eccentric basketball veteran is in North Korea for a controversial visit that has been rife with bizarre moments, including Rodman's rendition of "Happy Birthday" to the country's leader Kim Jong Un at a packed sports stadium on Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview Tuesday with Chris Cuomo of CNN's "New Day," Rodman provoked outrage by appearing to suggest that Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea since 2012, may have done something to deserve his sentence of 15 years of hard labor.
"I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family," Rodman, 52, said Thursday in a statement released by his publicist Jules Feiler. "I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo."
"I embarrassed a lot of people," said Rodman, who traveled to North Korea with other former NBA players for a basketball game against a North Korean team. "I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."
He said the day of the interview had been "very stressful."
"Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates," he said, adding that his dream of "basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart."
"I had been drinking," he said. "It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed."
Bae's family had said they were shocked by Rodman's comments about the captive American.
"He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth," Bae's sister, Terri Chung, said Tuesday. "He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."
NBA Veteran Cliff Robinson was one of Rodman's teammates who stayed to play in North Korea.
His wife Heather spoke to Cuomo on "New Day" Thursday and said her husband didn't know anything about Bae.
"That was never a question that came up or, I think 90 percent of us didn't know anything about Kenneth Bae. That was brought to the attention after through the media."
She added that had the players known about Bae, it would have changed the circumstances.
"I don't think they would have wanted to put themselves into that position to be under that kind of pressure. They're basketball players. He went for the love of basketball."
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