The detainment of Brittney Griner in Russia has now hit nearly seven months. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted of trying to smuggle illegal narcotics into the country. She has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony or Russian jail. Griner, who pleaded guilty, had her lawyers argue that the cannabis was to help treat injuries and reduce pain. But to no avail, the Russian court wasn’t trying to hear it.
The outcry against Griner’s conviction has been heard from both political figures, entertainers, WNBA and NBA players alike, with WNBA players and fans wearing “Free BG,” shirts during warmups. But that hasn’t changed her fate as of yet.
Over the weekend at a sneaker convention in Washington, D.C., Basketball Hall of Famer, and five-time NBA champion, Dennis Rodman told NBC News that he has received permission to go to Russia.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl. I’m trying to go this week.” Rodman also mentioned that he knows Russian President Vladimir Putin “too well.”
Sounds like Rodman being Rodman, but actually if anyone outside of the government could help with her release it’s probably “The Worm.” He’s known for establishing relationships with foreign leaders who may not hold the United States in the highest regard.
Dennis Rodman is going to Russia in hopes of bringing Brittney Griner back home.
"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl, I'm trying to go this week." – Dennis Rodman
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) August 21, 2022
Rodman Has Been De Facto Diplomat Before: Can He Help?
Rodman is no stranger to intervening in the world of politics. Who can forget his highly-publicized run with North Korea and their leader Kim Jong-Un. Beginning in 2013, Rodman’s impact on relations between North Korea and the United States was talked about far and wide.
While Rodman told reporters, “I am not a diplomat,” his actions and the way he became a bridge in frigid North Korea and U.S. relations says different. Rodman even lobbied for President Barack Obama to reach out to the North Korean leader, saying Kim Jong-Un wanted Obama to call him.
“He wants Obama to do one thing,” Rodman said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week. “He said, if you can, Dennis — I don’t want to do war. I don’t want to do war. He said that to me.”
“Kim loves basketball. And I said the same thing. Obama loves basketball. Let’s start there.”
Rodman even tried to use his new Bad Ass Vodka product to bring Obama and Kim Jong together.
“Everyone knows (President Barack) Obama drinks beer,” Rodman said back in 2013, while suggesting that his bottled libations can save US-North Korean relations. “But you know what? I’m pretty sure he does have a cocktail here or there. I’d love to see him with a Bad Ass Vodka shot in his hand, toasting to Kim Jong (Un) and me.”
While that never happened, former President Donald Trump took it a step further. Rodman touted Trump as a great negotiator and boasted about his involvement in Trump and Kim Jong-Un shaking hands and meeting to talk in Singapore.
The meeting was called the biggest and most surprising diplomatic breakthrough maybe ever. Rodman, who was in attendance for the historic meetup, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “It’s a great day. I am here to see it. I’m so happy.”
Now he’s set to try and work his magic on Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a 2014 interview with Fox Business, Rodman referred to the Russian leader as “cool.”
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) March 30, 2018
Griner Still Classified As Wrongfully Detained
Following Griner’s conviction, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said the department still classified the basketball star as “wrongfully detained.”
“No element of this trial changes our judgment and Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained and should be released immediately. This is why we’ve put forward a number of weeks ago what we consider to be a serious, substantial proposal: an effort to seek her release, to seek the release of Paul Whelan as well.”
“We are in communication with the Russians on this matter, and we encourage them to pursue this constructively.”
Can Rodman help? That remains to be seen, but given his track record and the fact that he claims to have some personal relationship with the Russian leader makes it worth a try.