Kordell Stewart is a former NFL quarterback with a storied history in the media. Nicknamed Slash, Stewart is known to football fans as an exceptional player known for his infamous Hail Mary pass in 1994 and being referred to by fans as the “Miracle at Michigan.” For fans of pop culture, Stewart is more known for being married to Real Housewives star Porsha Williams and for fighting off rumors about his sexuality in the press. He recently caught up with Tamron Hall to discuss these rumors and an essay he published about his experience with homophobia.
Stewart was the subject of a vicious rumor that was circulated about him in the late ’90s stating that he was caught performing acts with another man in a park. To be an athlete in the ’90s and associated with homosexuality was terrible enough, but to also be caught with a public scandal like this could end a career and almost derailed Stewart’s. For Stewart, not only was the story embarrassing, but it was false.
In his essay detailed “You Know What I Heard About Kordell Stewart???,” Kordell recounts the story of how a family friend called his house to tell him that a rumor was circulating saying he got arrested for getting intimate with another man in a public park.
While Kordell is quick to point out that he has no issue with gay people, he reminds readers that 1998 was a very different time in the media. “It’s great to see how much the world has evolved in the last 20 years. But when this was all happening? Man, you have to understand, I’m a young Black quarterback in a blue-collar town. Being the target of those kinds of rumors? At that time? In that era? In that NFL?”
While speaking with Tamron Hall, Stewart recalls showing up to the stadium the next day and the Steelers publicist asking to speak with him. The rumors made it all the way up to the owner of the team, who requested to speak with him as well. Eventually, Stewart had to address his coach and teammates. “I am a straight man. I have always been a straight man,” he tells Hall. Despite the truth, Stewart faced attacks from the city of Pittsburgh, including offensive slurs and fans throwing beers at him. Eventually, they uncovered that the rumor was started by a cop, although he never found out his name.
While things eventually blew over for Stewart, fans of Real Housewives began adding fuel to it again when he and his then-wife Porsha joined the show. Williams added to these rumors as well. Andy Cohen asked her in an installment of Watch What Happens Live why she would go on television and insinuate that Stewart was gay. Williams kind of jumped around and added more fuel to the rumor saying that if Stewart was DL, she would not have known.
In other interviews, she said that she felt that he did not find her attractive and continued to leave the answer open-ended when addressing his preference. Williams told Bethenny on her talk show whatever rumors existed about Stewart were there before her. While she was aware of them, the reality star claims that what ended their marriage was not the rumors but the treatment. Williams has alleged that Stewart was abusive towards her, which is why she divorced him.
Back in 2017, Internet personality Andrew Caldwell tried to exploit these rumors to make himself famous. Caldwell is famously known for his “delivert” video where he confessed to being cured. Caldwell claims they were in a romantic relationship and that Stewart had purchased him gifts during an interview with morning radio The ShakeUP.
Stewart sued Caldwell and The ShakeUp and was awarded $3 million in 2017 for defamation. He claimed they ruined his reputation and relationship with Porsha. He felt the morning show and Caldwell were trying to use his name and the rumors from his past to drum up press for themselves.
When discussing the initial 1998 rumors, Stewart told Tamron Hall that he had to really fight to navigate the rumors and maintain his career. What he decided to do was focus on work and keeping his job. Hall notes that he finished his NFL career strong on his own terms.