‘I was a monster to him’ – John Fashanu opens up on death of his gay brother 21-years after
Former footballer turned Sports Consultant, John Fashanu has opened up on the death of his Gay brother Justin Fashanu, admitting regret of being part of the culture that condemned his elder brother, leading to his death.
In 1988, the former Wimbledon star was in the glitzy Dorchester Hotel, celebrating with his team-mates after their FA Cup astonishing victory against Liverpool when a group of players were laughing and joking about the fact that his brother Justin was gay.
John says: ‘At that time, anybody saying my brother was gay was reason to fight them. Now you wouldn’t think twice about it. But then it was an insult to my family name. One of my brothers was gay. Are you mad?’
Ten years later his brother Justin, the first £1million black footballer and first openly gay professional killed himself after he became a victim of racism and homophobia.
He hanged himself in a deserted garage after being wrongly accused of sexual assault.
‘It was a horrible day,’ adds John, who was a year younger than his brother. ‘While Justin wrestled with a number of personal demons in his life, it is clear that issues around his sexuality were at the heart of his problems.
‘There is no question that the prejudice he encountered in his professional life as a top-flight footballer for club and country blighted his career and led eventually to his death. It is a sad reflection of the continuing issues that surround professional football that, 20 years after Justin’s death, there is not a single openly gay footballer in the Premier League.
This is a situation that defies logic and underlines the fact that, 20 years after Justin’s death, it is still not considered advisable to be openly gay.
The 56-year-old readily admitted that he acted like a ‘monster’ towards his brother after discovering he was homosexual in 1990.
According to him, he did not believe the gossip that Justin was gay but, after his brother confirmed the rumours, he paid him £75,000 to keep quiet.
Later, when Justin came out in The Sun under the headline ‘£1million Football Star: I am Gay,’ he felt betrayed. Eight days later, he hit back, doing an interview with The Voice, saying: ‘My Gay Brother is an Outcast’.
‘Initially, I didn’t believe him,’ says Fashanu, who now runs a Sports Academy in Nigeria. ‘When I confronted him and he said he was gay, I just thought he was doing it for attention.
‘Of course you’re gay,’ I thought. ‘Stop showing off. You’re trying to take my glory. You’re not going to do it. I’m the No1 footballer, I’ve taken your position, I’m now in the Premiership and playing for England. You’re now smoking out, having injuries and you just want to take my platform’.
That was what I was thinking. So I said: ‘Here, I’m going to give you £75,000 on the condition that you stop telling everybody you’re gay because no one cares’.
‘I then put him in a beautiful hotel in central London and asked my then manager to keep him there for a few weeks to calm him down. Little did I realise that he was gay too and sympathised with Justin. They colluded together and came up with the front-page story in the Sun.
‘I was livid. I thought he was a scam artist, taking money from me and taking money from the newspaper. I couldn’t understand then — although I can now — why he thought it was necessary to tell all and sundry that he was a homosexual. After all, I’m a heterosexual but I don’t go around singing that I’m a heterosexual.
‘Now I see the frustration and confusion he must have been going through. He must have just wanted to bare his soul. But homophobia was the rage then. You couldn’t even say the word homosexuality 30 years ago. My immediate thought was to protect my siblings, protect my mother and father and protect my loved ones around me.’