Never one to shy away from springing into action on the fly, former NBA star Dennis Rodman announced his mission to aid in the recovery of American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to over nine years in prison in Russia over a small amount of cannabis oil. The U.S. government, however, has a different plan.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News. “I’m trying to go this week.”
A “senior Biden official” seemed to suggest he wasn’t amused by Rodman’s intentions. “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,” said the official.
When Griner was detained by Russian authorities, she had just 0.7 grams of THC oil on her person, Unilad reports. Since then, Griner’s case has become a divisive political flashpoint inside and out of the United States.
A Russian court on August 4 found Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine and a half years in prison, as tensions remain high between Moscow and the United States amid the Ukraine invasion.
Rodman’s plan could interfere with the Biden administration’s plan to trade prisoners.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken revealed last July that the United States offered to release a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, both U.S. citizens currently being held by the Russian government. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador, told ABC News on August 16 that hopes remain optimistic for an exchange.
Senior Biden officials don’t want anyone to meddle in the exchange. In addition, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory on behalf of Americans considering stepping foot in Russia amid war, the New York Post reports.
“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 singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately,” the advisory reads. “Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions.”
Rodman, however, added that he knows President Putin “too well.”
Could Rodman Do It Again?
Rodman’s powers of persuasion have been used before, albeit through unconventional means—often leading into controversy.
Rodman cozied up with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, making multiple visits to the country over the past 10 years. Then in 2018, he took part in the meeting of former President Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un in Singapore. Rodman claimed that it was because of a letter he wrote to Kim Jong-Un, that North Korea released American missionary Kenneth Bae who had been imprisoned for over two and a half years in the country for “unspecified acts.”
Rodman is also friendly to Russia, specifically President Vladimir Putin, especially after visiting Moscow in 2014. These relationships with leaders like Kim Jong-Un and Putin have made Twitter, well, a bit suspicious.
Rodman’s relationship with pot is fairly complicated, it turns out. “I don’t smoke weed,” Rodman tweeted in 2014. “Or use any illegal drugs. That’s not my deal. I just get high on life.” However, Rodman invested heavily in PotCoin, a cryptocurrency designed for the legal cannabis industry, and has launched several NFTs lately.
Weed may not be Rodman’s thing per se, but it’s very common in the modern NBA. Jay Williams famously told Fox Business that he estimates 75-80% of NBA basketball players smoke weed off-season.
For the time being, Griner remains behind bars until an exchange can be finalized.