Soccer legend has John Fashanu has revealed how he took his brother Justin’s decision to come out as gay. Justin was the first openly-gay British football star, he committed a tragic suicide in 1998. In a newspaper interview in 1990, Justin claimed to have had an affair with a married Tory MP he met in a gay bar.
John Fashanu, a former Wimbledon striker, made a shocking revelation in an interview with Daily Mirror that at the time Justin wanted to come out, he paid him £75,000 to keep quiet. John Fashanu told Daily Mirror: “I begged him, I threatened him, I did everything I could possibly do to try and stop him coming out. I gave him the money because I didn’t want the embarrassment for me or my family. Had he come out now, it would be a different ball game. There wouldn’t be an issue, but there was then. Things are different now. Now he’d be hailed a hero.”
The 53-year-old soccer legend further said: “I’ll never forget when Justin first told me. He called me in the evening time and said to me: ‘I’m gay’. Then he said to me: ‘I’m planning to go to a newspaper’. I said to him: ‘Oh heavens forbid… oh my God. We don’t need that. You’re mad’. He promised when I gave him the money he would not go out and say that. Two days later… bang… headlines in a newspaper. I looked like a sucker.
“For me and my family it was like Hiroshima or Nagasaki on our lives. It knocked us dead, it was a total shock. People might not like it, but I was trying to protect my family. You’ve got to remember the public’s perception of homosexuality at that time was that it was an abomination . It was taboo. Street boys were beating up gays in nightclubs. I give him credit for having the courage to come out and say it. But it caused a lot of confusion and animosity towards him, me, and my family.
“During matches, 30, 40, sometimes 45,000 supporters sang at me: ‘You’re big… you’re black… your a*** is up for grabs… Fashanu… Fashanu’. As a result of him saying what he said, my mother died because of the stress. She actually died a year later on the day of his birthday. She was already old, very fragile and suffering cancer. Then to be told her second eldest son was a homosexual was too much.”
But John Fashanu now sees things differently: “I’ve never spoken about these things before because I was stamped a homophobe. But things have changed and I make it very clear: I was wrong. It was ignorance on my behalf. I didn’t understand him. I was trying to protect my family and I was worried about the effect on my career. In the process I lost my brother and I am very sad about that. He committed suicide because he was so distraught the world would not accept a black man who was homosexual. I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t accept it and so whatever relationship we had before was killed .Previous to that, we had been very close, but it just shattered everything. I didn’t speak to him again. There’s a lot of sadness and regrets.”