Dennis Rodman cancels plans to travel to Russia in a bid to help banned WNBA star Brittney Griner after the US State Department strongly discourages the 5-time NBA champion from doing the journey.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman canceled his plans to travel to Russia in an effort to help banned WNBA star Brittney Griner.
|Birth place:||Houston, United States of America|
The U-turn comes after US State Department spokesman Ned Price strongly discouraged Rodman from going to Russia, saying Rodman’s trip could derail ongoing negotiations.
“He would not be traveling on behalf of the US government,” Price told ABC News. “We believe that anything other than further negotiations through the established channel is likely to complicate and impede these release efforts.”
On Saturday, Rodman publicly confirmed that he received permission to travel to Russia and is preparing for the trip.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News on Saturday. “I’m trying to go this week.”
However, after ABC News reached out to the 5-time NBA champion, he said he currently has no plans to travel to Russia.
On July 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was open to a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss a possible prisoner swap involving American WNBA star Brittney Griner and imprisoned American Paul Whelan .
Although the US official did not provide details on the proposed deal, it did reveal that the deal includes convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who has been at the top of Russia’s prisoner swap wish list.
“I will raise an issue that is a top priority for us, the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongly arrested and should be allowed to return home,” Blinken continued.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated consistently and directly on that proposal,” the Secretary of State added.
“I will use that conversation to continue personally and hopefully lead us to a resolution.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Rodman engaged in informal diplomacy, as the NBA champion established a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Rodman called Russian President Vladimir Putin “cool” after a trip to Moscow in 2014. In 2018, he appeared on the sidelines of former President Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim in Singapore.
Finally, Rodman gave himself credit for helping to secure the release of American Kenneth Bae from North Korea.
Griner has been held in Moscow since February on charges of smuggling a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage when she was trying to enter Russia.
Griner arrived at the court in Khimki, in the Moscow region, for her eighth hearing on Thursday.
The player faces up to 10 years in prison. The prosecutor only reduced the final decision by one year.
The 31-year-old, 6-foot-6 center held up a photo of her teammates from UMMC Yekaterinburg, the Russian basketball team she played for during the WNBA offseason, from inside her cell. Many foreign players who have played for Russian teams, including Marta Xargay and Anna Cruz, among others, have campaigned in support of the American.