July 09, 2008
Plaxico Burress did an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station recently, and the topic of Kordell Stewart came up. And if you're in Pittsburgh, and you're talking about Kordell Stewart, it's not going to be long before someone brings up the possibility that Kordell was into dudes.
Here's what Plax had to say on the radio, via PFT:
“It had to be tough on him personally. I didn’t call him gay or anything like that. . . . I think that’s one of the reasons why he really couldn’t become the player that he wanted to be. . . . It has to play on you mentally a little bit.”
“People were talking about [Kordell] being gay,” Burress writes in Chapter 5. “The players heard that, but we never talked about it. I don’t know if Kordell is gay or not. It was none of our business. If ever we would have talked about it, it would have made everybody uncomfortable. If some player was gay, I don’t think he could come out while he was still playing. It would be real hard. It would mess a team up mentally and it wouldn’t be good for that person.”
“He had to watch the people that he hung around with. Just hanging out with your friends, or your boys and your cousins, all those things come to the surface. I think he just insulated himself after a while.”
It's terribly sad to think that a man's career was stunted by senseless rumors that he's a homosexual. I won't act surprised, of course, as I know that the NFL isn't comprised of the most progressive thinkers in the world. But still ... it was just some random rumor, probably started by some moron fan who didn't like Kordell's completion percentage.
It would be sad enough if a guy's career was ruined because he actually was gay, but it's somehow more sickening to know that a rumor alone could do the job just as well.
I wouldn't expect a group of NFL teammates to hear that a player's gay, and react by jumping around in glee, and then arranging for that player and his life partner to be married at halftime of the next road game they play in California (although that would be awesome). But from what Plax says here, no one was even willing to talk about it. That makes me feel sad.
Of course, the blame doesn't fall only with the gay rumors, the attitude towards them, and the unwillingness to talk about it. Kordell's less-than-spectacular play, obviously, was also a factor. But maybe it was the rumors and the isolation that led to the poor play.
In 1997, Kordell was the talk of the league, and led the Steelers to the AFC Championship game. The rumors started about a year after that, and Stewart was never the same.
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