Former NBA player Dennis Rodman says he wants to travel to Russia and help free Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony on drug charges, according to NBC News. Rodman was in Washington D.C. for a sneaker convention over the weekend when he told reporters about his plans to assist the imprisoned WNBA star.
"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," Rodman said in a restaurant. "I'm trying to go this week."
The basketball icon says he doesn't need special permission from the U.S. to visit the country, asserting that he only needs a visa from Moscow. An official in the Biden administration says Rodman may make the situation worse.
“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,” the senior official told reporters.
This wouldn't be the first time Rodman got involved with international relations. He visited North Kora multiple times and established a relationship with the country's leader, Kim Jong Un. During a 2014 trip to Russia, he called President Vladimir Putin "cool."
"I know Putin too well," Rodman says.
The U.S. Department of State has warned American citizens about traveling to Russia, citing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the possibility of Americans being "wrongly detained."
Griner's family and supporters hope a potential prisoner swap will bring the WNBA player home as talks continue between the U.S. and Russia. President Joe Biden has offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, another imprisoned American. Griner's legal team is also appealing her prison sentence.