Brittney Griner: Dennis Rodman planning trip to Russia to seek WNBA star’s release

WASHINGTON — Basketball Hall of Famer star Dennis Rodman hopes to take his bad boy persona to Russia and get WNBA star Brittney Griner released from prison.

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“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 is not required to receive special permission from the U.S. to make the trip, the news outlet reported. He would only need to secure a visa from Russian authorities.

Griner, 31, was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of smuggling drugs with criminal intent on Aug. 4. The Phoenix Mercury star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing cannabis in her luggage at the Moscow airport, The Associated Press and Sports Illustrated reported.

Cannabis is illegal in Russia, according to The New York Times.

Russian media reported on Aug. 15 that attorney Maria Blagovolina, one of the lawyers representing Griner, confirmed that the appeal had been filed. Griner, whom the U.S. classified as “wrongfully detained” in May, has been in Russian custody for 185 days, according to Sports Illustrated.

It is not the first time that Rodman, 61, who played 14 seasons in the NBA and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, has attempted informal diplomacy with a nation that has strained relations with the U.S.

The five-time NBA champion has established a cordial relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the past decade, making multiple visits to the Asian nation, NBC News reported. He also called Russian President Vladimir Putin “cool” after a 2014 trip to Moscow.

“I know Putin too well,” Rodman, who was in the nation’s capital for a sneaker convention, told the news outlet.

He did not elaborate on his plans.

Rodman also appeared on the sidelines when former President Donald Trump met with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

The State Department issued a travel advisory that strongly discourages U.S. citizens from visiting Russia.

NBC News has reached out to White House national security officials for comment on Rodman’s plans.