Dennis Rodman is not going to Russia after all.
The former NBA champion says he has no plans to travel to Moscow to seek the release of Brittney Griner, despite his previous statements to the contrary, reported ABC News.
Rodman’s about-face came after the US State Department said the retired Chicago Bulls player’s apparently unprompted and unsanctioned diplomatic mission would “not be on behalf of the United States.”
Rodman, 61, made headlines on Saturday when he told NBC News at a Washington, DC, restaurant that he “got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” referring to Griner.
Two days later, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, poured cold water on Rodman’s Russia trip, hinting that the US government would not welcome the basketball player’s meddling.
“We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts,” he said during a press conference on Monday.
Price reminded that the State Department has warned “private Americans across the board” not to travel to Russian amid threats.
Griner, 31, is serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted on Aug. 4 of smuggling cannabis oil vape cartridges into Russia back in February.
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.
There have been discussions that Griner, who is classified as “wrongfully detained” by the State Department, would be exchanged, along with fellow American detainee Paul Whelan, for a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
When asked about the possible prisoner swap, Price said that US interests are “best served if those discussions take place in private,” but he noted that diplomats are working on this issue “with the utmost urgency.”
Rodman is no stranger to inserting himself into contentious international relations.
The star athlete famously forged an unlikely friendship with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un and has visited him multiple times.
Rodman previously credited himself with aiding in the release of America citizen Kenneth Bae from a North Korean prison in 2014.
That same year, Rodman said in a interview that Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin was “cool.”