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More than 20 years after gay footballer Justin Fashanu died by suicide, his brother John says he still feels guilty

Nick Duffy April 28, 2020
John Fashanu spoke out about the death of his brother Justin Fashanu

John Fashanu spoke out about the death of his brother Justin Fashanu

John Fashanu, the brother of gay footballer Justin Fashanu, has said he still feels guilty over his suicide 22 years later.

Justin came out as gay in 1990, but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse and tabloid harassment.

As well as struggling for public acceptance, the Norwich City player also faced rejection from his family — with his brother John later admitting to having unsuccessfully attempted to coerce him into staying in the closet.

Speaking on reality show Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, John reflected on the circumstances of his estranged brother’s death.

He explained to the other contestants: “He was the first black one million pound footballer, but he was gay. We could just not accept that at all as a family, the whole family.

John Fashanu offered brother money to not come out.

“He was outcast, with a big boot. I remember I paid him a substantial amount of money to not come out and say he was gay, so when he came out and said he was gay, that was a little bit too much.”

Speaking about the hounding his brother went through, Fashanu explained: “Unfortunately, he then decided he couldn’t go on. God rest his soul, he [died by] suicide, he decided that was the best way out for himself.”

Justin Fashanu became the UK's first openly gay footballer
No-one playing in the Premier League has come out since Fashanu

Asked if he still feels guilt over his brother’s death, he added: “Every day. There’s not a time when he doesn’t come into my mind.

“It was a very very sad time. You can go over it again and again, and you can pray and wish that you’d handled yourself differently, but we didn’t. What a waste.”

Justin Fashanu was finally inducted into football’s Hall of Fame this year.

Earlier this year, Justin Fashanu was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in a moving ceremony.

The event was attended by John’s daughter, Amal Fashanu, who has become a prominent and tireless campaigner for inclusion in sport through the Justin Fashanu Foundation.

At the event in February, she said: “Today would have been Uncle Justin’s 59th birthday and what a way to celebrate it on his behalf. One of my favourite memories of Uncle Justin was his playful, cheeky character.

“He was so fun to be around and he would have been the life and soul of this event. Justin Fashanu was talented, smart, well-loved and charming. It warms my heart to witness his legacy being honoured more than 21 years after his untimely passing.”

Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu's niece, received the the award on his behalf
Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu’s niece, received the the award on his behalf

She added: “It’s unfortunate that we are still discussing discrimination in football in 2020 and it’s because of this harsh reality that we decided to create a platform in his name to tackle homophobia, racism and mental health within the game.”

John Fashanu did not attend the ceremony — though he did contribute to a 2017 film about his brother, Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story.

If you are in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected] If you are in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255

More: John Fashanu, Justin Fashanu

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