Former NBA power forward Dennis Rodman has reversed course and will not travel to Russia to negotiate WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner’s release.
“We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a press briefing Monday.
Rodman has made multiple trips to North Korea since 2013 and had a friendly relationship with the late leader Kim Jong-il. The former Chicago Bulls forward also visited Russia in 2014, describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as “cool.” In 2018, the five-time NBA Champion visited Singapore ahead of a summit between former President Donald Trump and current North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un.
Griner, a WNBA All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury, played for UMMC Ekaterinburg when she was detained at a Moscow airport. The State Department has placed a “Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory” regarding travel to Russia due to its war with Ukraine.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February and was sentenced to nine years on drug possession charges earlier this month.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters last month that he has spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about a prisoner exchange between Griner and Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer currently in prison in the U.S. Additionally, Paul Whelan, a former US Marine detained in Russia on spying charges is sad to be part of the negotiations. Price told reporters at the briefing those negotiations are still ongoing.
The Phoenix Mercury struggled this season without Griner, finishing the regular season with a 15-21 record and being swept in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs by the Las Vegas Aces. During the 2021 WNBA season, Griner averaged 20.5 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game, and 2.7 assists per game.