(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
A few weeks ago in an essay published by The Players' Tribune, Kordell Stewart opened up about malice rumors about him in the late 1990s when he was the quarterback for the Steelers.
It was the first time that Stewart publicly went in-depth about the baseless rumors. Stewart was a revolutionary player at the time, as mobile quarterbacks were uncommon and he also was capable of playing wide receiver, which earned him the nickname "Slash" in Pittsburgh.
While running quarterbacks were rare at the time, there were also not that many Black quarterbacks in the league. And sadly, that's why Stewart received so much hate from some fans in Pittsburgh and that's why there were despicable rumors about him. Some people in Pittsburgh just couldn't accept the fact that Stewart was the starting quarterback for the Steelers and was Black.
In November of 1998, an unfound rumor went around the city that Stewart was spotted in a Pittsburgh park engaging in a lewd act with another man.
"It never happened," Stewart wrote. "It was a lie. But that wasn’t the point, right? It was Twitter trolls before Twitter existed, trying to put me in an impossible situation. (Oh yeah, Twitter didn’t invent haters, brother. Haters been around since the Old Testament.)"
Dan Rooney found out that the rumor started from a cop, but sources wouldn't reveal the name of the exact officer. Stewart to this day doesn't know the name of the police officer who started the rumor and he doesn't really care to find out.
So why did Stewart decide to tell this story now after all these years? He gave his reason why when he appeared on the "Tamron Hall Show" on Monday.
“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 was put on the Players’ Tribune or in any newspaper, I think it’d turn to blind eyes and deaf ears," Stewart told Hall. “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. Yet stories are being told."
Stewart also said he would have articulated himself differently back then knowing what he knows now.
"It's a time where the way policies are being passed, the way the laws are now, and people wanting to just be accepted for who they are," Stewart said. "Back then, I may have responded in a different way, rightfully so because you're taking a lifestyle in the community and you're thrusting it up on a straight man. At 26 years old in that community, trying to handle everything that's coming at me, you know, how do you expect to respond to something of that magnitude?
"Truth be told, it became not about even that rumor, to be honest. It became more of a why. Like, what's the purpose of you trying to start something when I've done nothing but the right things in that community?"
Unfortunately, the rumors of Stewart's sexuality even followed him when he was on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" with his ex-wife Porsha Williams. They were even around when Stewart worked for ESPN, according to Jemele Hill.
The unfound rumors all began with one anonymous police officer who was out to get Stewart in 1998, and sadly it spread for years.
"How does it spread so fast? Stewart said about rumors in his essay. "Man, it’s easy. All you need is enough people who are more than happy to believe it."
Stewart deserved a lot better in Pittsburgh. It was a disgrace what happened to him. When reading his essay it made Pittsburgh in 1998 seem like an awful place to live. A place filled with bigotry, racism, and just pure hate. It's now 2021, and I like to think that Pittsburgh and the rest of society have become a lot more accepting of people no matter their race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or anything else that would lead to discrimination.
You can watch the entire interview with Stewart on the "Tamron Hall Show" in the link below.