POSTED: Saturday, January 18, 2014 - 8:48pm
UPDATED: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 3:13pm
CNN — (CNN) -- Former basketball star Dennis Rodman checked into an East Coast alcohol-rehabilitation center after facing backlash for his visit to North Korea, a source close to Rodman told CNN.
He entered the center Wednesday, according to the source. It's not clear how long he will remain in rehab.
Rodman -- a former standout on the NBA's Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls who is well known for his tattoos, piercings and colorful behavior -- recently returned to the United States after a tumultuous visit to North Korea, one of the world's most repressive governments.
Rodman, 52, said alcohol was one reason he shot from the lip earlier this month and told CNN that an American imprisoned in North Korea since 2012 may have done something to deserve his sentence of 15 years' hard labor.
After Kenneth Bae's family complained, Rodman apologized, saying he was under stress and had been drinking when he was interviewed.
Some observers have said Rodman's "basketball diplomacy" may have positive effects in North Korea by offering the people there a different view of the West, compared with its demonic portrayal in the country's tightly controlled state media.
But others, including human rights activists, say it's an embarrassing media sideshow that distracts attention from the North Korean regime's brutality. A State Department official said Rodman's visit was "marginally unhelpful" and Sen. John McCain said of the retired athlete, "I think he's an idiot."
Rodman led a team of former NBA players in a game in North Korea, which he called a birthday present to dictator Kim Jong Un, and, in a bizarre moment, sang "Happy Birthday" inside a packed sports stadium.
Upon leaving North Korea, Rodman was immediately criticized for his friendship with Kim. A mass of reporters met him at the Bejing airport and Rodman broke into tears while answering questions.
"I'm not the president," he told the reporters. "I'm not an ambassador. I'm Dennis Rodman."
Rodman also said, "I'm sorry for what's going on in North Korea, the certain situations," but he didn't apologize for his visit.
Rodman visited during a time of high tension between the two nations. North Korea has pursued a nuclear program, much to the Untied States' distress.
Rodman visited North Korea in February 2013 with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Kim was known to be an avid basketball fan while attending school as a teenager in Switzerland.
-- CNN's Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.
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