Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is once again wading into hostile foreign territory, this time in the hopes that he can secure the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from Russian prison.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman said to NBC News at a Washington D.C. restaurant on Saturday. “I’m trying to go this week.”
Who he received permission from is unclear, as Americans don’t actually need the government’s authorization to travel to Russia, despite the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory, which cautions them not to, as commercial flights are limited and U.S. credit cards do not function in the country.
“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 Level 4 warning reads. “U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions.”
The State Department has maintained that Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to smuggling marijuana vape cartridges into a Moscow airport on Feb. 17, has been “wrongfully detained” by the hostile nation.
“Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” President Joe Biden said in a statement in early August. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Rodman, who credits himself with getting Kenneth Bae released from a North Korean prison after meeting with the country’s dictator Kim Jong Un several times in the last decade, is likely to do more harm than good, according to the Biden administration.
“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 official remarked.