NBA legend Dennis Rodman said he’s planning a trip to Russia to lobby for the release of jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner, after she was sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. “I’m trying to go this week.”
The basketball hall of famer has visited Russia before and previously called President Vladimir Putin a “cool guy.”
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Rodman said he “knows Putin well” and can help Griner.
But the Biden administration, which is currently negotiating with Russia for the release of Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, said NBA champion-turned-reality-star Rodman could hurt Griner’s case.
“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,” an unnamed senior administration official told NBC.
The State Department has a travel advisory in place warning U.S. citizens to stay out of Russia.
“Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism. U.S. citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart Russia immediately,” the advisory says.
Rodman, 61, played for several NBA teams, including the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.
The five-time NBA champion is no stranger to international diplomacy.
He has said he’s friends with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. In 2014, Rodman claimed he helped get American Kenneth Bae released from North Korean custody.
Since leaving the NBA, Rodman has competed on Celebrity Apprentice and he won the top prize on the 2004 edition of Celebrity Mole.