Using Dennis Rodman as a case study, a new article examines the role of high-profile athletes in sports diplomacy.

What do World Cup champion Abby Wambach, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jewel, and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Lakshmi Puri have in common? Each of them is a fighter in the struggle for gender equality and has overcome stacked odds to become a 21st-century champion for change. 

He can still dunk like a butterfly, but in the personally tragic case of former basketball pro Dennis Rodman in North Korea, the embrace of Kim Jong Un and his policies sting like a bee. Rodman is only the most recent example of sports diplomacy gone awry. And with the Sochi Olympics a few weeks away, it is inevitable that a new cadre of unpredictable athlete diplomats will make it to center stage.

Markos Kounalakis explain why Dennis Rodman is no Muhammad Ali.

The State Department, like the rest of America, has its eyes fixed on the London Olympics. But officials there aren’t just rooting for Team USA — they’re also looking for new recruits. Today’s gold medalists, after all, are tomorrow’s sports diplomats.

An expansion of youth sports programs nationwide and the potential for future training opportunities for Afghan athletes and coaches are among the benefits of a developing partnership between the national Olympic committees of the United States and Afghanistan, and other U.S. sports associations, officials said.