Groups’ caution over John Fashanu claims brother ‘was not gay but wanted attention’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Comments made by John Fashanu last week that his brother Justin, Britain’s only out professional footballer, was not gay but ‘wanted attention’ have been treated with caution.

Groups have warned that the late footballer should not be “put back in” the closet and the sport should focus on offering support to anyone in a similar situation.

John Fashanu told talkSPORT on Friday evening he did not believe his brother, who took his own life in 1998 after years of homophobic bullying and an investigation into an alleged sexual assault, was gay or that he had had affairs with MPs and an actress from Coronation Street, stories which had surfaced in the press.

He said: “If you had a brother who came out and said, ‘Hey listen, I’m gay’ we’d welcome you, say ‘No problem’.

“But if you had someone who came out and said, ‘I’m a spaceman’ when you’re not a spaceman then that’s a bit silly.

“It’s a macho man’s game and I think there are reasons why we haven’t had any gay footballers come out.

“I don’t believe there will be. I’m not saying there aren’t some there, but I can tell you in twenty years of playing all my matches I have never come across a gay footballer.

“I’m not someone who says, ‘I’ve got black friends, they’re all good people.’ I’m not going to say ‘I’ve got gay friends, who are all good people.’

“It’s unfortunate because I don’t believe he was, and if he was, who gives a rat’s arse? So what?

“But don’t go and sell your stories or make up stories for money for goodness sake. I’m heterosexual, will I make it on to the front page of the newspapers?”

John Fashanu appeared in the documentary Britain’s Gay Footballers in January, at times still visibly upset by his brother’s death.

Fashanu is seen telling his daughter, Amal, who made the film: “I think there’s more chance of the next Pope being black, than you finding a footballer who will come out and say he’s gay.

“Even straight players will not talk about gay players or gay society… I don’t think in two decades of football I have ever witnessed the abuse that your uncle Justin [Fashanu] received, from all sections of the stadium.”

Fashanu’s comments in the 1990s about his brother’s death, however, including an interview a week after he came out that ran with the headline ‘My Gay Brother is an outcast’ came as surprises to his daughter.

Last week, Fashanu added: “My daughter was very close to her uncle and it has taken a long time for her to understand that Justin wasn’t really gay, he just wanted attention.

“I remember Justin coming out with another story about him dating Coronation Street lady as well. Again, that was another made up story to get front pages.

“When I said this to Justin he’d say, ‘I need publicity, I need publicity.’ That was where he’d derive his attention and his money.

“It wasn’t the fact of him being gay, or whether he’s white or whether he’s black, that was never a concern to me whatsoever.

“What was a concern to me was somebody going and screaming on the rooftops “I’m black” or “I’m heterosexual” or “I’m gay” to get publicity or money.

“Making up stories to get attention.”

He added that, as their mother was suffering with cancer which would take her life a year later, he had told his daughter: “I didn’t disown my brother, but I pushed him further away because of the challenges that he was going to bring into our family.”

Jason Hall, Founding Director of the Justin Campaign, said: “Many years ago, Justin courageously decided to leave the closet well and truly behind him. While Justin may no longer be with us, we should continue to respect that and not attempt to put him back in it.”

Chris Basiurski, Chair of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network said: “We’re really disappointed to hear these comments from John Fashanu. While we don’t want to interfere in what is a personal family matter, we do see a real need for people who are going through the sort of loneliness and isolation that Justin Fashanu may have felt to receive the necessary support.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with John and others in the game to ensure there is a support network available for indiviuals and families in this situation.”