Dennis Rodman, known primarily for his impressive career as an NBA player but also for his seemingly bizarre friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, stated he will be going to Russia to negotiate the release of WNBA athlete Brittney Griner.
31-year-old Griner is currently incarcerated in a Russian prison serving a 9 year sentence after being convicted of intentional drug trafficking for being found in possession of less than a gram of cannabis oil in a vape at the Moscow airport in February.
While at a restaurant in Washington D.C., Rodman told NBC News:
"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl.I'm trying to go this week."
A senior official from the Biden administration didn't seem to think Rodman would be particularly helpful in this instance, however.
"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."
The official was referring to a deal proffered by the US where it would release Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a US Marine veteran who has been detained since 2018 when he was arrested and accused of spying.
Rodman has maintained a friendly relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since attending a basketball exhibition held by the dictator in Pyongyang in 2013. In the months after the exhibition, Rodman played a part in negotiating the release of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been accused of attempting to overthrow the government and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
Rodman tweeted in May of 2013:
"I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him 'Kim', to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose."
He later retracted his statement, saying he would not ask Kim for Bae's release, but Bae was still released in November 2014.
Reactions to Rodman's announcement were largely mixed, with some supporting his efforts and others highly skeptical.
Many cited Rodman's friendship with Kim Jong Un as both a reason for his possible success and a reason to doubt the effectiveness of his effort.
Some were concerned Rodman himself might end up imprisoned in Russia.
It remains to be seen whether Rodman will have the same kind of success in negotiating with Vladimir Putin as he did with Kim Jong Un, but many believe if there's a chance he can help bring Brittney Griner home then it's worth a try.