The Walt Disney Company insists it played no role in bringing the Harlem Globetrotters to North Korea.
But the Roy E. Disney family, relatives of the famous Walt, did. Its Shamrock Holdings owns 80 percent of America’s favorite basketball acrobats, who entertained the rogue regime’s dictator Kim Jong-un earlier in March.
Dennis Rodman grabbed most of the headlines for the trip sponsored by Vice magazine as part of an upcoming HBO show. The NBA bad boy is known for breaking the rules, as is the pop culture journal, named after, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “moral depravity or corruption.”
The red-white-and-blue Globetrotters, who describe themselves as family friendly, have a better reputation, however, having appeared at Disney World, on Disney XD, even ESPN, another Walt Disney Company cable channel, since the Disneys bought a majority stake in the team in 2005 through Shamrock.
“The Globetrotters do not perform as part of any Disney productions,” Scott Johnson, the Globetrotters’ Director of Public Relations, told TheDC.
Both privately held companies, Walt Disney and Shamrock would not reveal to TheDC whether the Disney family still owns a share of their namesake entertainment conglomerate, after recently owning a percentage and having influence on the the board.
Even so, the family name is recognizable to children all over the world, and in a statement before departing for a country the United Nations call a gross violator of human rights, the Globetrotters claimed to be going to North Korea to “bring smiles to kids.”
However, in none of the propaganda photos of the game between mixed teams of Globetrotters and North Korean players do kids appear. Nor could Johnson produce any photos in which they do.
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of Human Rights in North Korea, wasn’t surprised kids were absent from the festivities. “How many have TV’s?” he asked. “How many have electricity? How many even care about a basketball game when they’re starving?”
Scarlatoiu told TheDC the game was a publicity stunt for Kim, as the new “Outstanding Leader,” as his subjects know him, assembles a cult of personality around himself.
Part of that includes the People’s Pleasure Ground, the so-called Hermit Kingdom’s homage to the Magic Kingdom, which Kim debuted in 2012. In state-sanctioned photos of the North Korean theme park, it’s also difficult to find any kids.