NBA Star Dennis Rodman Reverses Plan to Travel to Russia to Help Griner

Dennis Rodman, an NBA icon, took the spotlight last weekend when he revealed that he would be traveling to Russia as an ambassador of sorts to help Brittney Griner. She is the WNBA basketball player who was just sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Russia for bringing controlled substances with her.

Giner was arrested at the airport, her case was tried in a courtroom, and a judge sentenced her to nine years in prison in Russia. She was detained for carrying a vaporizer cartridge that contained hashish oil. It is an illegal substance in the country.

Griner’s lawyers said they had filed an appeal in the case after the two-time Olympic champion argued that she had no criminal intent to bring drugs into Russia.

But Rodman is now backtracking on his travel plans to help “the girl.” 

According to an ABC report, the former NBA star has changed his course and has no current plans to go to Moscow. Just a few days ago, he announced that he “got permission to go to Russia to help that girl.”

People were not surprised by Rodman’s ambitions. He has taken a shot at global diplomacy in the past. He’s well known for his trips to North Korea and the crazy friendship he has developed with Kim Jong Un, the nation’s unpredictable dictator. 

The United States government has not seemed to invest a whole lot in the Griner case, but they also were not happy about Rodman going to Russia on Griner’s behalf. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Rodman’s apparently unprompted and unsanctioned diplomatic mission would “not be on behalf of the United States.”

Government Discouraged Rodman From Visiting Russia

Price went even further by giving a warning to the former Chicago Bulls star saying that he might further complicate Griner’s position with his visit. Price emphasized that the US government was already working on a plan to get Brittney Griner out of prison and home to her family. 

“We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts,” Price said.

There have been some reports that the United States was working on a prisoner swap for Griner. In a statement to the press, Price reminded people that the State Department has warned “private Americans across the board” not to travel to Russian amid threats.

The State Department has classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.” 

A month ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that he was in conversations with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. They were discussing securing the return of Griner to the U.S. in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer. American Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018, would also be a part of that swap, according to ABC News.

Price was asked about the possible prisoner swap and he said that the United States’ interests are “best served if those discussions take place in private,” but he did confess that diplomats are working on this issue with a great deal of urgency. 

It is unclear exactly what changed Rodman’s mind about his trip to Russia. In the past, he has credited himself with helping in the release of a prisoner. After a visit to North Korea in 2014, the American citizen Kenneth Bae was released from a North Korean prison by Kim Jong Un. 

So Rodman has seen the limelight of contentious international relations before. 

He also created controversy just last year when he talked about Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin. Rodman said he was “cool.”The former Chicago Bulls forward initially appeared confident in his decision to step in to help Griner. “I know Putin too well,” Rodman told NBC News.