Justin Fashanu [1961 - 1998]
Justin Fashanu first made headlines as a promising boxer in his teens. He became a very talented English footballer, making his debut for Norwich City FC as a central striker at 17.
Fashanu played 103 matches for the club, scoring 40 goals. In 1981, he became the first Black footballer to be signed for a fee of £1 million when he transferred to Nottingham Forest.
He was one of the first footballers to command a £1 million transfer fee, with his transfer from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981. He had varying levels of success as a player afterwards until he retired in 1997. But though he was a top player, he led a lonely but courageous life, prevented from fulfilling his potential because of homophobia from teammates, coaches and fans, and on October 22, 1990.
Fashanu came out publicly; he agreed to sell his story to The Sun tabloid newspaper, running the headline as £1m Football Star: I Am Gay. However, although he was at the height of his fitness levels, no club offered him a full-time contract.
After moving from club to club, he moved to America to coach the Maryland Mania in Ellicot City, a new professional team in the second division USL A-League. There, he was accused of sexual assault by a seventeen-year-old boy, and on April 3 1998, police issued a warrant for his arrest in Howard County, Maryland. However, Fashanu fled before he could be arrested and returned to London, fearful of being subjected to an unfair trial as homosexuality was illegal in Maryland.
Tragically, he committed suicide in London in May 1998, leaving a note that the sex was consensual.
In 2020, Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.