NBA hall of famer Dennis Rodman says he has permission to travel to Russia as he attempts to secure the release of basketball star Brittney Griner.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian jail for drug possession earlier this month. Her lawyers have filed an appeal and there are understood to be separate talks underway over a possible prisoner swap.
But Rodman told NBC this weekend that he plans to make a trip of his own to negotiate the Olympic champion’s release.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News. “I’m trying to go this week.” He did not specify who had given him permission to travel to Russia. He is more likely to hurt than help, said a senior Biden administration official.
The 61-year-old basketball legend has described himself as a “basketball ambassador.”
In 2014, he was invited to Russia by Vladimir Putin and called the country’s president “cool.” He also has a friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who is an avid NBA fan.
In 2014, he implied an American prisoner in North Korea, Kenneth Bae, deserved his punishment. However, Bae later said Rodman’s comments played a part in his release.
Rodman and Griner have impressive basketball records. Rodman won five NBA titles, including three with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Griner is considered one of the best basketball players in the world and has won titles in the US and Russia. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris told Cherelle Griner they would pursue “every avenue” to bring her wife, Brittney Griner, home from Russia. The U.S. has imposed stiff sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine and is aiding Ukraine’s forces. Griner’s imprisonment has created an additional source of tension between the two countries and a potential avenue for diplomacy.
“Brittany, we all are praying for your safe return home where you belong!”