It’s no secret that NBA legend Dennis Rodman enjoys a night out, or that his penchant for partying has often led him towards the ebullient atmosphere of a gay bar.
But the former basketball pro recently revealed that while playing for the San Antonio Spurs from ’93-’95, he was going out to gay bars a lot — and the whole team knew.
During an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show, Rodman reminisced about some of his now-iconic fashion choices with Barrymore and co-host Ross Matthews. That quickly got him talking about gay bars.
“When I went to San Antonio I was so bored and not in the mood to play basketball, so I had to find something to get my energy and motivation [up] to go out there and play and live life. So I used to go gay bars,” he explained. “I used to wear halter tops, I used to wear everything. It was so funny the fact that all my teammates knew I went to gay bars and stuff like that and I support my gay community, no matter where I am in the world.”
Matthews interjected with a fond memory. “Can I say a true story?” he asked. “I ran into you one time at The Abbey in West Hollywood. I was catching a drag show and tap on my shoulder, and it’s like ‘Hey, Ross,’ and I’m like, ‘Hi Dennis Rodman. Hi!”
“I’m always at the Abbey,” responded Rodman. “I love The Abbey, man.”
In fact, a trip to a gay bar in the ’90s sparked a close friendship between Rodman and his Spurs teammate, Jack Haley.
Following a team dinner, Rodman invited Haley and his wife to join him for a surprise night on the town. He took them to a gay bar, naturally.
“They had a male stripper up on the stage, stripped down to a G-string. I shocked (Rodman) and slipped one of the guys a buck. Ever since then, we’ve been good buds,” Haley recalled of the memorable evening.
While the sight of a pro athlete in a gay bar might still turn a few heads, it doesn’t carry a fraction of the stigma it did in the mid ’90s. But Rodman never much cared what people thought about him, nor did he ever think being LGBTQ was even the least amount shocking.
It was a big deal for the superstar athlete to take such a casual approach to sexuality, and he no doubt helped others evolve on the issue.
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Rodman has been a longtime ally
The former basketball player rocketed to fame as arguably the greatest rebounder ever, and unquestionably the sport’s biggest fashion risk taker. He loved to dress in drag, and the gay community was certainly paying attention.
“I was, you know, doing all the drag clubs, I was dressing in drag. I was dressing in women’s clothes. I was doing lingerie and stuff like that and people in the gay community started embracing me,” he said in a 2019 Business Insider interview.
It seems he felt a certain camaraderie with queer people, especially drag queens.
“When you talk to people in the gay community, someone who does drag, something like that, they’re so f**king happy. They hold their head up so high every f**king day, man. They’re not ashamed of sh*t. They’re not trying to prove anything, they’re just out there living their lives,” he told The Guardian in 2021.
“If you’re gay,” he said, “I didn’t give a damn.”
Rodman has even estimated that 10-20% of pro athletes are probably LGBTQ, and he’s happy to see some finally coming out.
“It don’t matter if [you’re in] sports or entertainer or actor or whatever in the world,” Rodman says. “Who cares? Okay. Who cares? You know, as long as he play and perform, does it matter?”
He said it’s “cool” that there are openly queer athletes, and on that we couldn’t agree more.