The late Justin Fashanu would have turned 58 years old today, but the former English Premier League soccer player whose career ended when he came out as gay has not been forgotten.
His former club, Norwich City, has remembered Fashanu again on it Twitter page, as it has in the past:
There is also an artist whose has focused on Fashanu’s importance to the sports and LGBT world, as openly gay British journalist Jon Holmes writes for Sky Sports:
“I wanted to capture a motif for his life,” says Colin Yates, reflecting on the first portrait he made of Justin Fashanu. “I thought this was the best way to represent him.”
’Ups and Downs’, with its theme of snakes and ladders, is a metaphor for the turbulent, peripatetic life of one of British football’s most mythic figures, who would have celebrated his 58th birthday on Tuesday.
Yates is among those helping to keep Fashanu’s memory alive at this time of year, with February the designated month of action for Football v Homophobia, known as The Justin Campaign when it was founded in 2008. Clubs including Manchester City (for whom the striker played briefly in 1989), Tottenham, Charlton, Exeter and Altrincham have all marked FvH in various ways in recent weeks. For those who knew Fashanu personally, and also for those who appreciate its significance, February 19 is a date to reflect on his unique legacy.
Here is some background on Fashanu for those who are not aware of his import:
Justin Fashanu was also gay, and in 1990 he publicly came out. The move essentially ended his career. Though he was still in peak condition, no club offered him a full-time contract. Some of his colleagues spoke out against him, and his brother publicly disowned him. The press used the story to run sensational headlines, and he was the target of abuse hurled from the crowds in stadiums. Eight years later, in the shadow of a sexual assault allegation, Justin Fashanu hung himself in a garage in Shoreditch, London.
The Football v Homophobia campaign designates February as its month of action to help make soccer a welcoming place, specifically highlighting Fashanu’s birth month.
There are still no openly gay EPL players, so on the one hand not much has changed. But public attitudes clearly have changed to more support for LGBT athletes, and Fashanu remains a pioneer.