“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,”
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.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman, 61, told NBC News in Washington DC on Saturday.
“I’m trying to go this week.”
The basketball Hall of Famer added that he knows Russian President Vladimir Putin “too well.”-- It wasn’t immediately clear what “permission” Rodman received, but an approved visa is required to enter Russia.
The US State Department currently has a travel advisory that warns Americans not to travel to the country.
“Do not travel to Russia,” the warning reads, listing a number of reasons — including the Ukraine invasion, the “potential for harassment against US citizens” and “the singling out of US citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention.”
Rodman, who once referred to Putin as “cool” in a 2014 interview, is no stranger to involving himself in informal diplomacy with international leaders.
The ex-Chicago Bulls star struck up an unlikely friendship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and has visited the country multiple times.
He previously took credit for aiding in the 2014 release of American man Kenneth Bae who had been imprisoned in North Korea for more than two and a half years for unspecified acts.
Rodman said he had written to Kim Jong Un to urge him to release Bae, TMZ reported at the time.
His attempt to get involved in Griner’s ordeal comes after the WNBA star’s lawyers said last week they had filed an appeal over her prison sentence.
Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
The American copped to having the canisters in her bag, but told the court she had mistakenly packed them and that she had no criminal intent. Prior to her conviction, the US State Department had declared that Griner was “wrongfully detained” — a statement spokesman Ned Price doubled down on last week.
“No element of this trial changes our judgment that Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained and should be released immediately,”
“That is why we’ve put forward a number of weeks ago what we consider to be a serious, substantial proposal and an effort to seek her release, to seek the release of Paul Whelan as well,” he added, referring to an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.