On Saturday (Aug. 20), former NBA star Dennis Rodman said that he has permission to travel to Russia to seek the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for drug possession earlier this month. Although her lawyers have filed an appeal and there are separate talks about Russian officials undergoing negotiations with the U.S. government regarding a possible prisoner swap, Rodman told NBC News that he still plans to make a trip of his own to negotiate his fellow basketball player’s release.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. “I’m trying to go this week.” Rodman claims that he knows Russian President Vladimir Putin “too well.” He did not specify who gave him permission to travel to Russia, but it would not be the first time he has conducted informal diplomacy with an international leader who has strained relations with the U.S.
In 2014, Rodman was invited to Russia by Putin and called the president “cool.” He is also friends with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, who is an NBA fan. That same year, he helped secure American prisoner Kenneth Bae’s release from North Korea by writing a letter to Jong-un.
Rodman does not need special permission from the U.S. to enter Russia — just a visa from Moscow — but the State Department did issue a travel advisory that strongly discourages American citizens from visiting the country. “Do not travel to Russia,” the department advises, citing a litany of reasons, including the “unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” potential “harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and the possibility of “wrongful detention.”
White House officials has yet to make a statement on Rodman’s plans to travel to Russia.