Aaron Rodgers and his family have had a complicated relationship for years, but their estrangement doesn’t mean that they don’t love each other, a source close to the NFL quarterback tells PEOPLE after his comments about religion made headlines earlier this week.
“He loves them very much, and he wants nothing but good things for them all,” the source tells PEOPLE. “The fact that he doesn’t talk to them doesn’t mean that he hates them. They just have a very problematic relationship that sometimes can be toxic. For the good of everyone, there’s some distance there.”
The source tells PEOPLE that Aaron, 36, is still someone his family can count on.
“If they needed him, if anything went wrong or if there were an emergency, he’d be the first one to help them,” the source says. “He loves them.”
The NFL star and his family have been estranged for several years — including his younger brother and Bachelorette star Jordan Rodgers. While Aaron has not spoken publicly about the reasons behind the estrangement, a source close to the family told PEOPLE that their religious views have been a part of the stress.
Aaron recently sat down with his girlfriend Danica Patrick for a conversation on her Pretty Intense podcast, during which he opened up about not feeling connected to his religious community as a child.
After hearing Aaron’s’ sentiments about his Christian upbringing, the source close to the family told PEOPLE they felt like he had “turned his back on them.”
In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, the family patriarch, Ed Rodgers, claimed that his son’s rise to fame was also a factor in the rift between the family, telling the outlet that the quarterback had allegedly stopped talking to his family members at the end of 2014, shortly after he began dating actress Olivia Munn.
In December 2018, Aaron sparked some hopes of a reconciliation between the family when he revealed he had celebrated his birthday with them. However, things seem to have remained tense since then.
While a different family source tells PEOPLE that the Rodgers have had sporadic communication with the football star, there is still a desire to smooth things over permanently. “Everyone in the family is willing to make something work,” says the family insider. “They want to be functional.”
Adds the source close to Aaron: “I think everyone hopes that they can someday have a healthier relationship. We’ll see what happens.”
A rep for Aaron did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.