Dennis Rodman, the former NBA player, says he is traveling to Russia to seek the release of Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner.
The out WNBA star has been detained in Moscow since February of this year, when Russian authorities at the Sheremetyevo Airport discovered vape canisters with cannabis oil inside of her luggage. Earlier this month, Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison over the charges.
"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," Rodman told NBC News. "I'm trying to go this week."
The Biden administration responded, warning that Rodman is more likely to make the situation worse than better.
"It's public information that the administration has made a significant offer to the Russians," a senior Biden administration official told the outlet. "Anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts."
In response to Griner's detention, President Joe Biden sought to exchange the basketball player's freedom for the release of imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. While the proposal has neither been accepted nor declined, officials are "hopeful" a resolution can be reached.
The Biden administration has classified Griner as "wrongfully detained."
Rodman previously visited Moscow in 2014, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as "cool." He has also developed a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and was present for the meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore back in 2018.
Rodman credits himself for the release of Kenneth Bae, an American imprisoned in North Korea in 2014. The athlete penned a letter to the country's leader at the time, and while he never received a response, Bae was later returned to the United States alive.
NBC News notes that Rodman does not need permission from the Biden administration to travel to Russia. He only needs a visa approved by the Russian government.
Rodman believes in the success of his informal diplomacy, expressing confidence in his knowledge of the Russian president.
"I know Putin too well," he claimed.
The State Department has strongly advised against traveling to Russia, citing "unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine," the "harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials" and the potential for "wrongful detention."
Griner was in Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine to play on a Russian basketball team in the WNBA's off-season. She pled guilty to the initial charges, admitting that the vape canisters belonged to her, but maintained that she had brought them into the country unintentionally. Griner's lawyer, Alexander Boikov, said that she is a "responsible person" who wished to take accountability for her mistake.
During a court appearance before being convicted, Griner said, "I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn't end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom. I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime."