Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has recently approached the N.F.L. quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura about serving as his running mate on an independent presidential ticket, and both have welcomed the overtures, two people familiar with the discussions said.

Mr. Kennedy confirmed on Tuesday that the two men were at the top of his list. It is not clear if either has been formally offered the post, however, and Mr. Kennedy is still considering a shortlist of potential candidates, the people familiar with the discussions said.

Mr. Kennedy said that he had been speaking with Mr. Rodgers “pretty continuously” for the past month, and that he had been in touch with Mr. Ventura since the former governor introduced him at a campaign event last month in Arizona.

A representative for Mr. Rodgers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Ventura could not immediately be reached for comment.

The involvement of Mr. Rodgers — who is expected to start for the New York Jets this fall, at the height of campaign season — or of Mr. Ventura could add star power and independent zeal to Mr. Kennedy’s outsider bid. Democrats have worried that Mr. Kennedy could siphon votes away from President Biden, tilting a close election to former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Biden’s allies have been working to block Mr. Kennedy from the ballot across the country.

Mr. Kennedy, 70, an environmental lawyer and scion of a storied Democratic family, has in recent years become prominent for his vaccine skepticism and his promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government and public health apparatus. Mr. Rodgers, too, has increasingly embraced the role of celebrity provocateur and contrarian for his stances on vaccines, public health and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Kennedy is expected to name his running mate in the coming weeks, ahead of deadlines in states that require him to have a vice-presidential pick to petition for ballot access. He initially ran for president as a Democrat but announced in October that he would run as an independent instead, accusing Democrats of corruptly blocking his challenge to Mr. Biden.

In recent months, Mr. Kennedy and his camp have approached at least a half-dozen people, with varying degrees of formality, to gauge their interest in serving as his running mate. Aside from Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Ventura, he is said to have spoken with former Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky; and Andrew Yang, the former candidate for president and New York mayor, the two people familiar with the discussions said.

Mr. Yang did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Paul’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Ms. Gabbard could not be reached for comment.

All have turned him down except for Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Ventura.

If anything could be interpreted as a hint of where Mr. Kennedy might lean, the domain name kennedyrodgers.com was registered last week using a GoDaddy host.

Mr. Rodgers, 40, is a four-time winner of the N.F.L.’s Most Valuable Player award, leading the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2011. He is expected to start for the New York Jets this year, after his debut with the team last season ended abruptly with a rupture of his left Achilles’ tendon in the opening minutes of the first game.

It is not clear how running for the second-highest office in the land would work with his day job. He said recently that he hoped to play in the N.F.L. for “two or three or four more years.”

It would also not be the first time Mr. Rodgers sought to add a side gig to his football career. In 2021, while playing for the Packers, he was among those who auditioned to be the host of the quiz show “Jeopardy!”

A spokesman for the New York Jets did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The team is owned by Woody Johnson, a prominent donor to former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Johnson to be his ambassador to Britain.

Mr. Rodgers has been outspoken on political and social issues in recent years. Last month, in an appearance on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast, Mr. Rodgers said he had lost friends, allies and sponsorships over his public decision not to get vaccinated.

Mr. Rodgers has promoted his skepticism about Covid vaccines during his regular guest spots on the ESPN show hosted by Pat McAfee, a former football punter-turned-podcaster. In January, Mr. Rodgers had a spat with the late-night host Jimmy Kimmel when he falsely suggested court documents would link Mr. Kimmel with Jeffrey Epstein during an appearance on Mr. McAfee’s show.

Mr. Rodgers was an early backer of Mr. Kennedy’s presidential bid. Last month, Mr. Kennedy shared a picture on social media of them hiking together.

Mr. Ventura, 72, was famous in the 1970s and ’80s as a professional wrestler known as Jesse “the Body” Ventura, and he also appeared in movies and television before he entered politics. He was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998 on the Reform Party ticket, and served for one term.

He has since become a prominent figure in independent and third-party politics. He has written several books, and now has a Substack, “Die First Then Quit,” with his son.

In a YouTube interview several months ago, Mr. Ventura said he would consider an offer from Mr. Kennedy to serve on his ticket.

Reid J. Epstein and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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