The blogosphere is abuzz today with rumors that NFL star Aaron Rodgers, the wildly popular and insanely talented (not to mention gorgeous) Green Bay Packers quarterback, is a closeted gay man who recently had a falling-out with a former boyfriend.
Rodgers is a Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP who, according to a 2011 Public Policy poll, is more popular than pretty much everyone other than Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln. (No, I'm not kidding.)
A gossip website called The Fame Driven broke the story last week, claiming to have been tipped off to the "juicy scoop" by one of their "spys" [sic]. Said spy writes:
I'm surprised you all haven't touched on The Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his former male "personal assistant"/roommate name Kevin Lanflisi. Aaron has attended numerous sports award shows with Kevin, always color coordinated and without any double female dates, including the ESPY's. Kevin was also the first person Aaron embraced when the Packers won the Super-bowl in 2011. I just find it really strange that as of late there has been many bitter subliminal tweets on Kevin Lanflisi's twitter alluding to a relationship much deeper than a friendship he had, with who I perceive to be Aaron Rodgers, because Kevin has NEVER once tweeted about having a girlfriend, just mainly about the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, and Justin Bieber's music and sitting front row at Bieber's concert. There has been speculation for years here in Wisconsin that Aaron is gay which I always brushed off, but after looking at Kevin's twitter I'm inclined to believe Aaron and Kevin were more than just roommates/friends, I believe they were lovers.
The article takes a decidedly heterosupremacist, anti-gay view of the allegations: "[It's] very far fetched and hard to comprehend or believe one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers) and a hip hop gospel poet (Kevin Lanflisi), both devout Christians, engaged in an alleged homosexual relationship," the author writes. "We just can't with this notion!" (Because gays are all Christian-bashing sissies, right?) He also scolds Rodgers: "Aaron's now 30 years old shouldn't a wife and family be the future goal?" (Because gays can't have spouses or families, right?)
We'll examine the evidence, after the jump.
Evidence for the author's "scoop" is circumstantial at best: The Fame Driven points to a series of two-year-old tweets from Lanflisi's Twitter account (which have now been deleted) that include photographs of the two together and of Lanflisi wearing Rodger's Super Bowl ring. ("There are football wives who don't even get that privilege!," the site salaciously claims.) The author also cites two interviews in which Rodgers discussed his close friendship with Lanflisi.
According to the article, Rodgers was among the high-profile NFL stars who planned to come out of the closet earlier this year. Rodgers reportedly backed out at the last minute, though, and the big coming-out event never materialized at all. The spy claims that this "infuriated" Lanflisi and damaged his relationship with Rodgers. In several more recent tweets, Lanflisi alludes to a possible breakup of some sort.
Despite the relatively flimsy evidence, the story has been picked up by sites like Towleroad, Queerty, NewNowNext, Radar Online, RantSports, Perez Hilton, and the International Business Times.
For those of you who don't already know, I was born, raised, and spent most of my life in the Green Bay area. (My husband Michael and I just returned today from family Christmas celebrations there, actually.) It's a small city that absolutely reveres the Packers -- to say that football is a religion there would be a gross understatement. The area trends politically and culturally conservative, which makes life tougher for LGBT people than it is in other, more progressive cities like Milwaukee, Madison, and Appleton.
It's true that vague speculation about Rodgers's sexual orientation has quietly floated around town for awhile now, but none of it has risen above the level of hearsay. Nonetheless, Rodgers does have a large and devoted following in the Wisconsin gay community, and I did consider the Rodgers rumors when I wrote in April:
I selfishly hope that one of the gay players who chooses to come out might be a Packer player. I don't think I can overstate what a difference that would make for the conversation about LGBT rights and the public perception of the LGBT community in northeastern Wisconsin.
Is Aaron Rodgers gay? Perhaps, perhaps not -- these latest allegations certainly don't prove anything either way, and we won't know for sure unless he decides to comment on them. If they're false, then hopefully Rodgers will still use this as an opportunity to come out -- in support of LGBT equality.
But if they are in fact true, I hope Rodgers can summon the very same fearlessness he's known for on the football field and step out publicly as a gay man. While it would undoubtedly be difficult and trigger some anti-gay backlash, it would also completely reshape the dialogue around homophobia in sports, energize the Wisconsin LGBT community in a potentially unprecedented way, and make things that much easier for other gay NFL stars and football players across the country.
Oh, and he'd feel great too.