Earlier this year, former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart published an article through The Players’ Tribune in which he went into detail about the time in his life in the aftermath of the rumors that circulated in the late 1990s claiming that he was homosexual, and that he had been arrested for having a lewd act performed on him by a man in public.
He talked about what it was like to be a black quarterback in Pittsburgh at that time, about how so much of the fan base just wanted him to be ‘Slash’, and not the quarterback, and how that all came to a head when the rumors started, and basically, how it had consumed so much of his life for a period of years.
The article seemed to come somewhat out of nowhere, after he had never really addressed it at all in public for nearly two decades. Earlier this week, he appeared on the Tamron Hall Show, and the first question he was asked was, why now? “Why not?”, he said.
“When you look at society and where we are right now as a country, whether it’s through politics, racism, whether it be systemic racism, bigotry, however you choose to preface it, this is a time where, as opposed to 1998—if this essay were put in the Players’ Tribune or any newspaper, I think it’d turn to blind eyes and deaf ears”, Stewart told his host. “But today is a time where it’s imperative that, like we’re doing right now in this country in 2021, we’re talking. We’re giving people opportunities to be heard. Stories are being told”.
The former Steelers quarterback also expressed some regret for his own manner of handling the situation, trying to put in context what it was like to be an embattled black athlete in the public eye in a blue collar town, and to suddenly have these rumors swirl around him, and how he would have addressed it differently—starting with leaving out homophobic defenses of his sexuality.
Later on in life, he appeared on the Real Housewives of Atlanta program with his then-wife, Porsha Williams, during which rumors would later surface that insinuated that Williams was Stewart’s ‘beard’, a term used to describe an arranged heterosexual relationship to cover up an individual’s homosexuality.
Naturally, these rumors trace back to the ones that surfaced more than a decade earlier. They never really went away. No doubt there are plenty of people who continue to believe that they were true. But as we sit here in 2021, I hope that we can at least look at the bigger picture and realize that the heart of the rumor—that Stewart is gay—doesn’t even matter, or at least shouldn’t.