Voice of a Hero
Anyone ever hear the name Justin Fashanu? Anyone know who he is?
Everyone in the LGBT community should know this brave and courageous man’s name and his story. It’s not about him being a professional athlete that we should champion him. It is about his courage and tenacity to stand up for himself.
Justin was a professional footballer (soccer in the US) from 1978-1997. He is the first openly gay professional athlete to come “out” while still active in his sport. Not only was he openly gay, but he was also African-American.
The year 1978 seems like a lifetime ago and for some is just another year prior to being born. Even in today’s climate, coming “out” to the world as an individual or as a professional athlete can be monumental. I cannot imagine the amount of courage this would require so many decades ago.
For him to play football and compete in arenas, all the while being pelted with hatred spewed from the stands. Not to mention Justin was one of the team’s star players. I ask how does one person muster the courage to do this? Why? We will never truly know. We no longer have this shining star on the playing field or even with us.
In 1998, Justin was accused of sexual-assault by a then seventeen-year-old boy while he was living in the U.S. He was questioned by the police and never charged. Later that same year, Justin Fashanu took his own life. He had returned to England and was found in a deserted garage in which he had broken into. Justin left a suicide note and stated “I realized that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family.”
The purpose of my writing about Justin Fashanu is to offer hope – hope that even the best of the best sometimes need a hand up. Society has kicked our community down and we have lost many. This is a story of hope, no matter how hard today seems, we need to focus on tomorrow and the next day. We have to focus on the bigger picture and look down the road. When I am training for a triathlon it’s not for the race tomorrow but for the event in six months that I work for. Our personal lives tend to get “noisy” with our daily activities.
Please take the time to stop and listen for anyone needing a hand up and take the time to offer it. You never know what impact a simple “just thinking of you” may do.
Spokes is a Richmonder and resident of Virginia for 10 years. He is a small business owner with a passion for outdoor activities - competing in numerous triathlons, sprints, olympics and half ironman distances.
St. Louis Rams’ Michael Sam, left, and his partner Vito Cammisano arrive at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL draft pick, was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the annual ESPY Awards on Tuesday. Sam, who announced earlier this year [...]July 17, 2014
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