Aug 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

State Department: Rodman's Russia plans could "hinder" Griner's release

Dennis Rodman reacts after being introduced as part of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team during the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Feb. 20 in Cleveland. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that it is discouraging former NBA player Dennis Rodman from visiting Russia in a bid to help free WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Why it matters: Rodman has a history of conducting informal diplomacy on the U.S.' behalf and said over the weekend that he "got permission to go to Russia" to help Griner, whom the U.S. has declared as wrongfully detained. She is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence after being convicted on drug charges.

  • The State Department is warning that any such visit would only "complicate and hinder" the U.S.' efforts to secure Griner's release.

What they're saying: "We put forward a substantial proposal to Russia to seek the freedom of Paul Whelan or Brittney Griner," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing Monday.

  • "We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts."
  • Price, who emphasized that Rodman would not represent the U.S. government if he did go to Russia, noted that the administration continues to advise U.S. citizens against traveling to Russia due to concern about wrongful detentions and the country's invasion of Ukraine.

The big picture: Russia confirmed this month that it is negotiating with the U.S. regarding a possible prisoner swap deal that would secure the freedom of Griner and Whelan, a former Marine.

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