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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman (inset) embraces the North Korean leader Kin Jong-Un Photo by: Telegraph

Paddy Power withdraws from Dennis Rodman basketball game in North Korea

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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman (inset) embraces the North Korean leader Kin Jong-Un Photo by: Telegraph

Irish betting firm Paddy Power has pulled out of a controversial sponsorship of Dennis Rodman’s basketball tour to North Korea.

The bookmaker was heavily criticised after offering to back Rodman’s exhibition game in February to mark dictator Kim Jong-un’s birthday.

Rodman spent the weekend in the communist state but has yet to confirm whether or not he met with the madcap leader who recently ordered the execution of his uncle and two aides.

The Associated Press has reported that Rodman is struggling to attract top basketball stars to North Korea for the game.

And he has now lost his sponsor as well after the Irish firm withdrew its support although the company will continue other sponsorship deals with the NBA legend.

A statement from the Paddy Power group said: “Given changed circumstances, Paddy Power has decided to withdraw its association with the Dennis Rodman basketball initiative in North Korea.”

Spokesman Paddy Power later explained to the Associated Press: “This isn’t a financial decision. We’ll be honouring all our contractual commitments to Dennis and his team.

“We’ve reviewed the project, and with the benefit of hindsight, we’ve recognized we’ve got this one wrong.

“Because of this, we have decided to remove our name from the event.”

Rodman left North Korea on Monday but plans to return in January when he will finalise plans for the exhibition game.

He first struck up a friendship with Jong-un on a visit to North Korea earlier this year.

Rodman’s agent Darren Prince has acknowledged the Paddy Power’s decision in an interview with AP but confirmed the game exhibition game will go ahead despite the recent execution of Kim’s uncle in a dramatic political purge.

Prince said: “We’ve worked with Paddy Power on several occasions before and we respect their decision.

“We’d like to thank them for all their solid work helping to make Dennis’s dream of basketball diplomacy a reality.”

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