Dennis Rodman may be best known for his defense skills on the NBA court and outlandish hairstyles. But did you know that he has another talent?
International fixer extraordinaire and diplomat to the dictators. Sound a little out there? We agree - but it's reality. Rodman has a history of working with the world's most intractable leaders, inexplicably. And now he's wading into the controversy surrounding WNBA star Brittney Griner - hoping to use his talents to free her from a Russian prison sentence over drug charges.
Can Dennis Rodman Free Brittney Griner?
First things first - can Rodman actually free Griner? The answer to that depends on a myriad of variables, but surprisingly it might be, "possibly."
NBC News reports, "Former NBA player Dennis Rodman said Saturday that he plans to visit Russia to seek the release of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges earlier this month.
'I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,' Rodman told NBC News at a restaurant in D.C. 'I'm trying to go this week.'"
However, some are worried that Rodman's presence and efforts could complicate and ultimately hurt the attempts to free Griner. One senior official to the Biden administration told NBC News, "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."
While their skepticism is understandable and their concern for an imprisoned citizen makes sense - Rodman has done the impossible before, so counting him out could be a mistake.
Griner was originally arrested on drug charges in Russia while playing an off-season Russian league earlier this year, and her fate has remained fraught as the US attempts to secure her return stateside.
Rodman sees himself as an international fixer and peacemaker, with good reason.
Rodman Has a History of Working Peacefully with Dictators
After all, he has a bizarrely friendly relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
NBC adds, "Rodman has cultivated a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the past decade, making multiple visits to the hermit kingdom. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin 'cool' after a 2014 trip to Moscow. In 2018, he showed up on the sidelines of former President Donald Trump's meeting with Kim in Singapore. And he has credited himself with helping to secure the release of American Kenneth Bae from North Korea."
Some see Rodman's ability to cozy up to dictators to be strange and walk the line of being traitorous to American values.
However, Rodman's friends present a unique opportunity to open back door channels often closed to official diplomatic routes.
Whether or not he can help free Griner remains to be seen but having all available channels working towards her release has to feel like a little bit of a relief to Griner who continues to languish in a Russian prison.