Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is planning on traveling to Russia to seek the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was recently sentenced to 9.5 years in prison on drug charges. Rodman told his plans to NBC News on Saturday.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News at a restaurant in Washington D.C. “I’m trying to go this week.”
There were no details released on exactly what permission he was referring to, but Rodman just needs a visa from Moscow — regardless of the fact that the US has issued a travel advisory because of the current Russian invasion in Ukraine.
President Biden’s administration is not condoning the NBA legend’s plan.
“It’s public information that the administration has made a significant offer to the Russians and anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts,” a US government senior official told NBC News.
The former Chicago Bulls power forward appears confident in his decision to step in to help Griner, though.
“I know Putin too well,” Rodman said to NBC News.
Russian officials has said multiple times that they are against “microphone diplomacy” and want to do negotiations privately through that communication channel that was established by Biden and Vladimir Putin last year.
The two governments have been in talks for a potential trade deal for Griner and corporate security director Paul Whelan in exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death,” was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
Rodman does have a history of communicating with, and even befriending, controversial world leaders.
He has referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “personal friend,” and even took credit for the release of American prisoner Kenneth Bae from North Korea in 2014. That same year, he said Putin is “actually cool” after meeting him at a restaurant.
For a full explainer on Griner’s situation, click here.