Tuesday 20 February 2018

Former Premier League player John Fashanu paid late brother Justin £75k not to come out

John Fashanu. Getty Images
John Fashanu. Getty Images

Heather Saul

John Fashanu has admitted paying his late brother £75,000 in a bid to persuade him against coming out to the public as gay.

The former Wimbledon footballer and presenter compared the shock of having his brother Justin come out to the family as like “Hiroshima or Nagasaki on our lives”.

He spoke to The Mirror about the way his family dealt with his disclosure after reports that two Premier League football players are going to come out as gay.

Justin was also a professional footballer and the first black player to be transferred to another club for a record £1 million fee.

He was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in the US in April 1998 and killed himself the next month in his London flat. In his suicide note he claimed to have had consensual sex with the boy and expressed fear that he would not receive a fair trial because of his homosexuality.

After his brother came out as gay, Fashanu says he “begged” and “threatened” him not to announce his sexuality, paying him £75,000 so he didn’t speak to the press.

“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. His brother’s sexual orientation was announced in newspapers two days later.

“There wouldn’t be an issue, but there was then. Things are different now. Now he’d be hailed a hero.”

Fashanu said his brother’s decision to come out had a negative impact on the family and led to him being taunted during football matches. “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’,” he said.

He also claims the stress proved too much for his mother, who could not cope with having a son come out as gay.

“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.”

Fashanu, 53, says his family’s unaccepting reaction was a product of prejudiced attitudes towards the LGBT community that were so prevalent at the time.

“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 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.

“He committed suicide because he was so distraught the world would not accept a black man who was homosexual.”

Fashanu urged the public to demonstrate tolerance and acceptance towards the two unidentified players if they do come out as gay.

He said: “Please be careful with words, don’t let it lead to the destruction of two men in their prime. I didn’t have that wisdom 20 years ago and it led to the destruction of my late brother Justin.”

Independent News Service

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