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Justin Fashanu
(February 19, 1961 - May 2, 1998) U.K.

Justin Fashanu

Pro soccer star


Of Nigerian descent, Justinus Soni Fashanu was born in Shoreditch, London, the elder son of a Nigerian law student and of a Guyanese nurse. When his parents split up he was sent, with his brother John, to a Barnado's home. When he was six he and his brother were fostered by Alf and Betty Jackson and was brought up in Attleborough, Norfolk. He played in the England Youth and Under 21 team and made his professional debut at Norwich City in 1979. He became Britain's first 1,000,000 black soccer player when he transferred to Nottingham Forest in 1981. At the time Justin Fashanu was in a heterosexual relationship but he was soon drawn to Nottingham's gay scene. When it was learned of Justin's gay leanings he was suspended. However, Justin still turned up for training, whereupon the police escorted him from the premises.

In 1990, he was the first professional Britain soccer player - and still the only one - to come out as gay in The News of the World, a British tabloid paper, and in the London tabloid "The Sun"; he supposedly claimed to have had political boyfriends in the House of Commons. His career was affected by homophobia both in the black community and in English football.

He left the sport in 1994 because of a serious knee injury. After the collapse of his footbal career, Fashanu went into a self-destructive spiral, and eventually committed suicide; his body found hanging in an abandoned garage in Shoreditch, East London.

Fashanu's detailed suicide note said that the 17-year-old player he was accused of molesting in Maryland had had consensual sex with him and then attempted to extort money from him the next morning. It described Fashanu's voluntary statement to police, saying he had not been charged nor asked to surrender his passport, and that, "The first I heard that I was a fugitive was when I turned on the television news. I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my family and friends." The sexual assault charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, and Fashanu believed that his race and sexual orientation would bias any trial against him.


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