Retired footballer and TV presenter, John Fashanu, has opened up on the death of his brother, Justin, who was the first £1m black footballer and the first openly gay professional in the English top flight.
Justin, a victim of both racist and homophobic abuse during his career, committed suicide in 1998 after being accused of sexual assault – an accusation he denied in his suicide note.
Twenty one years on, John insists the issues around his brother’s sexuality blighted his career and eventually led to his death, while the lack of an openly gay male player in the top division in 2019 is a “sad reflection” on the sport.
“It was a horrible day,” he told the Daily Mail. “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.”
John and his older daughter, Amal, are launching The Justin Fashanu Foundation on April 1 in an attempt to stamp out homophobia in football and increase the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender players (LGBT) in football.
Backed by the Professional Footballers Association and FIFA, The Justin Fashanu Foundation will collaborate with the professional bodies in organising fundraisers and raising sponsorship in a bid to eliminate prejudice.
“Our mission is to confront discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in football at all levels and empower them to participate without regard to their sexuality,” he explained.
“We want to ensure that professional footballers can be open about their sexuality without the fear of public disapproval or professional disadvantage.”