NBA hall of famer Dennis Rodman says he has permission to travel to Russia as he attempts to secure the release of fellow basketball star Brittney Griner.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian jail for drug possession earlier this month. Her lawyers have filed an appeal and there are understood to be separate talks underway over a possible prisoner swap. But Rodman told NBC this weekend that he plans to make a trip of his own to negotiate the Olympic champion’s release.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News. “I’m trying to go this week.” He did not specify who had given him permission to travel to Russia.
The 61-year-old Rodman has described himself as a “basketball ambassador.” In 2014, he was invited to Russia by Vladimir Putin and called the country’s president “cool”. He also has a friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is an avid NBA fan. In 2014, he implied an American prisoner in North Korea, Kenneth Bae, deserved his punishment. However, Bae later said Rodman’s comments played a part in his release.
“I thank Dennis Rodman for being a catalyst for my release,” Bae told CNN in 2016. “He brought attention to my plight.”
Rodman and Griner have impressive basketball records. Rodman won five NBA titles, including three with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Griner is considered one of the best basketball players in the world and has won titles in the US and Russia.