Brittney Griner: Joe Biden official warns Dennis Rodman may 'hinder' WNBA star's release

Brittney Griner Dennis Rodman

Five-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman has revealed he is planning to fly out to Russia in an attempt to aid the release of Brittney Griner, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence.

The WNBA star was arrested in Moscow airport earlier this year under drugs charges and detained until her sentence earlier this month.

However, despite Rodman’s commitment to helping a fellow basketball icon, a senior administration official to President Biden has stressed it is “likely to complicate and hinder release efforts.”

What happened to Brittney Griner?

Back in February, Griner was arrested and held in custody after vape cartridges containing less than one gram of cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage at Moscow airport.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist pleaded guilty last month in a lengthy trial, where she was convicted of drug possession and deliberate smuggling.

During the months between her arrest and sentencing, the US State Department said Griner had been “wrongfully detained” and her fellow WNBA players were also rallying to get her home safely.

Griner’s lawyers stated the 31-year-old has only ever used cannabis for medical purposes and has never used it while in Russia, where she plays for professional basketball outfit UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season.

Brittney Griner #15 of the United States smiles while greeting players after an exhibition game against the Australia Opals at Michelob ULTRA Arena ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Australia defeated the United States 70-67. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Following the trial’s closing comments, 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.”

Griner’s case has raised concerns that she is being used as a bargaining chip in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The Biden administration is currently working on an exchange deal involving Viktor Bout — a Russian arms trafficker currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence — for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American being held in Russia.

The video board displays past interviews with Brittney Griner during a rally to support the release of detained American professional athlete Brittney Griner at Footprint Center on July 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. WNBA star and Phoenix Mercury athlete Brittney Griner was detained on February 17 at a Moscow-area airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

What has Dennis Rodman said?

Rodman has revealed his plans to attempt to help Griner’s release and intends to hop on a plane as soon as possible.

“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” he told NBC News. “I’m trying to go this week.”

The former basketball and wrestling star has alluded to having something of a close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Rodman has also cultivated a relationship with Kim Jong Un and was present during Donald Trump’s 2018 meeting with the North Korean leader.

Back in 2014, the 61-year-old credited himself with assisting in the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years on charges for planning to overthrow the North Korean government.

Dennis Rodman gestures during the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on August 12, 2011 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

“I know Putin too well,” Rodman said while stressing his understanding of the Russian president.

But the State Department has advised US citizens not to travel to Russia and Biden’s administration official has warned any third party negotiations could cause complications for Griner.

“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.”

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