London: While critical of Dennis Rodman`s trips to North Korea, incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the former All-Star also helped raise awareness of leader Kim Jong Un`s "repressive regime."
Rodman took a group of retired NBA players to the pariah state this month to play a game as a gift for Kim, a move criticised by some members of the US Congress, human rights groups and the NBA.
Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim, has stressed he is not a statesman and is only seeking to build cultural ties between Pyongyang and Washington through basketball.
But the 52-year-old Rodman has been denounced for not trying to use his influence with Kim to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who is being held in North Korea on charges of "anti-state" crimes.
Although Rodman has been accused of becoming a public relations tool for North Korea`s government, Silver regards the publicity from the trips helping to shine a light on a country with a poor human rights record.
"As negative as that trip was in so many ways it also brought attention to a critical issue in North Korea that ... most Americans hadn`t focused on at all in terms of a repressive regime," Silver said today in London ahead of a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks.