Justin Fashanu (London, 17 February 1961) was one of the most prominent athletes of the United Kingdom when he played in Norwich City. In 1981 the powerful “Nottingham Forest” paid him one million sterling pounds to join their team, at which point they became the winner of two Europe Cups. It was also during this period that he became aware of his sexuality. Although it was not official, his nights out conjured controversial rumors that reached the ears of the trainer, Forest Brian Clough. In his biography, Clough recounts a conversation he had with Fashanu: “If you want a loaf of bread, where do you go? To the bakery, ofcourse. If you want a leg of lamb, to the butcher… So why do you keep going to these terrible, gay clubs?” Clough succeed in separating Fashanu from the team and began a series of short lived contracts with various clubs, some of which were in the United States and Canada. He returned to England, played with Manchester City, with West Ham, and in the Leyton Orient.
Justin Fashanu was relentlessly pestered by the tabloid magazine “The Sun”. The tabloid threatened to out him publicly if he did not give them an interview. They told him, “We know that you are gay. You can either confirm it with us and we will pay you for the interview, or we publish the information anyways and you will not receive any money”.
When Justin Fashanu publicly came out as homosexual in the interview for “The Sun” in 1990, it generated a lot of controversy, but it was not for nothing. In him, we had the first professional football player that had come out of the closet.
When he came out of the closet is where his problems started. His brother, John, who was also a football player, rejected him: “Homosexuals do not have a place in sports teams,” . He declared his brother a pariah and cut all his ties with him. His brother offered him 100,00 dollars to not come out publicly because he feared that Fashnu’s sexuality would affect his own football career.
Later when trying to establish a career as a trainer in the United States, he had to leave under false accusations of sexual abuse of a 17 year old who blackmailed him for money. He returned to England under fear of being arrested. Fashanu’s body was found hung on May 2, 1998 in an abandoned garage in Shoreditch, a London suburb. He left a suicide note in which he said: “I have realised that I have been culpable. I do not want to worry my family and friends more. I hope that Jesus, who loves me, will welcome me; at the end I will find peace”. The british police discovered a little but afterwards that the United States authorities has archived the allegations of sexual abuse against Fashanu for lack of proof.