NBA star Dennis Rodman said he plans to travel to Russia to help advocate for Brittney Griner’s release after the American basketballer was sentenced to nine years in prison for cannabis possession.
Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody since February after being charged with having hashish oil cartridges in her luggage after flying into Moscow. After a lengthy detention prior to finally receiving her day in court, the WNBA star pleaded guilty to the charges in order to expedite the process, leading to a nine-year prison sentence.
That all had to happen in order for negotiations to begin in earnest for a potential prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia, which is made increasingly more difficult by the current war in Ukraine that has led to heavy sanctions on Russia from the U.S. and other countries, causing additional strain to an already tense diplomatic relationship. While government officials are optimistic about the potential to get Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan back in a swap that would send a Russian arms dealer back to Moscow, the Kremlin has reportedly insisted that negotiations be done in private after that news got out.
The latest update on this story comes from a rather unlikely source — and one that probably isn’t particularly helpful to the entire “keep negotiations private” effort — as Dennis Rodman claims he has received permission to go to Russia to try and push for Griner’s release, per NBC News.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News at a restaurant in D.C. “I’m trying to go this week.”
That is the entirety of the quote, which leaves an awful lot of questions still to be answered. Is the permission coming from the United States to act as an informal diplomat? Or is the permission simply that of Russia to enter the country? Who is Rodman even planning on speaking to? Would he be welcomed in those conversations by either side?
Rodman certainly isn’t new to inserting himself in world affairs, as he’s rather famously been friendly with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and claims to have aided in the return of an American prisoner from North Korea. The biggest hope is that Rodman’s involvement is, at worst, a net neutral should he make his planned trip, and that this doesn’t cause any hindrance to the more official diplomatic channels being operated.