Dennis Rodman Changes Course on Planned Russia Trip to Free Brittney Griner

Dennis Rodman is not really going to Russia in an effort to free Brittney Griner. The WNBA star has been detained in Russia since February and was sentenced to nine years in prison for bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil into the country. Rodman, who has infamously made trips to North Korea, claimed he had "permission" to go to Russia until the U.S. State Department advised him not to go.

"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," Rodman told NBC News at a Washington, D.C. restaurant on Saturday. "I'm trying to go this week." A senior White House official quickly told NBC News any negotiating outside official channels is "likely to complicate and hinder release efforts."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price also told ABC News if Rodman went, he would not be representing President Joe Biden's administration. "He would not be traveling on behalf of the U.S. government," Price said. "We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts." Following the scrutiny, Rodman told ABC News Monday he will not be going to Russia after all.

Rodman, 61, does not need the U.S.'s permission to travel to Russia, but he would need a visa from Moscow. Still, the State Department is advising Americans not to travel to Russia during President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. On Aug. 15, the State Department updated its "Level 4-Do Not Travel" advisory.

"We've also provided very clear guidance to American citizens -- owing to a number of threats, not the least of which is the threat of wrongful detention -- that Americans should not travel to Russia," Price told reporters Monday. "That has been our message to private Americans across the board."

Griner, 31, was detained by Russian authorities in February after she was found with vape cartridges that contained hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia. Her trial started on July 1 and she was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this month. Late last month, the U.S. government proposed exchanging Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan's release, sources told NBC News. Whelan is an executive who was detained by Russia in 2018. Russian authorities later said talks have taken place.

"I said last week that we had engaged in discussions with Russian counterparts on this. Those discussions are ongoing," Price said Monday. "We've made very clear, as we have publicly, that we proposed a substantial proposal, we called it, for the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner."