As a new campaign launches to fight homophobia in English football, it’s a good time to remember Justin Fashanu, the first footballer in England to come out. The child of Nigerian and Guyanese parents, Fashanu was also the first black player to have a £1 million transfer.
What follows is a brilliant and moving article written by the great activist Peter Tatchell back in 1998, shortly after Fashanu’s death:
Justin Fashanu was a trail-blazer. He was Britain’s first million pound black footballer, and the first (and only) professional player in Britain to come out as gay.
But trail-blazing cost him plenty of heartache. In 1980, aged 19, he was signed to Nottingham Forest football club for £1 million. The expectations of Justin were huge. There was the pressure to deliver goals and to become a black spokesperson. He found his sudden celebrity-status both a flattery and a great burden.
Back then, in 1980, Justin was not open about his homosexuality. Indeed, he didn’t come out until 10 years later. During that decade of closeted double-life, he found it immensely difficult to cope with the strain of hiding his gayness in the macho world of football - not to mention the stress of living a secret gay life while constantly in the media spotlight.
Homophobia was not his only problem. Like many black footballers in those days, Justin suffered racism too. He was subjected to frequent racist taunts by fans from rival teams. They would make monkey noises and gestures, and throw bananas onto the pitch. But it was anti-gay prejudice that ultimately dragged him down.
"A bloody poof!" That’s how his manager at Nottingham Forest football club, Brian Clough, described his £1 million star player, Justin Fashanu. Homophobic attitudes like that unsettled Justin. Although he laughed them off, Clough’s sneers hurt inside, making it hard for him to concentrate on playing ‘the beautiful game’. No wonder his football career nose-dived.
Justin and I met at the London gay night-club Heaven in 1981, soon after he realised he was gay. I had been selected as the Labour candidate for Bermondsey, and he had recently transferred from Norwich to Nottingham Forest. We became good friends for the next ten years.
During that time, Fashanu confided to me about the problems he was having at Nottingham Forest. “Clough doesn’t respect or support me”, Justin complained more than once. Although Fashanu was not at that stage open about being gay, Clough appears to have long suspected he was a “poof”.
In his autobiography, Clough recounts a dressing down he gave Fashanu after hearing rumours that he was going to gay bars. “‘Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?’ I asked him. ‘A baker’s, I suppose’. ‘Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?’ ‘A butcher’s’. ‘So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs’ club?”’
In that hostile, stressful atmosphere, anyone’s performance would suffer. Unsurprisingly, Justin failed to score goals.
The pressure Fashanu was under from Clough made it extra hard to come to terms with his sexuality. When we first became friends, he was only 20 and just starting to realise he was gay. Justin had considerable difficulty in accepting his sexual orientation, but through our talks - often late at night on the phone from his hotel in Nottingham - he began to feel good about his gayness.
Although he had not publicly declared his homosexuality in the early 1980s, I was already partly out. Despite the evident risk of his own exposure by association, Fashanu thought nothing of going out with me to night-clubs, parties, family celebrations and high-profile events where he was the guest of honour. He knew journalists and photographers would be there. It was almost as if he wanted to be outed by the press to end the pretence and pressure of leading a secretive double-life.
All this was happening in the run-up to the Bermondsey by-election in 1983, when I was standing for election to parliament. I, too, was in the media spotlight; with prominent press reports about my advocacy of lesbian and gay human rights. Indeed, I was often tailed by tabloid journalists eager for a scoop on my private life. Justin was, to his great credit, determined that our friendship would not be compromised by the threat of newspaper exposure. I was more cautious and protective. So, when we planned a night out together, I resorted to devious means to lose the tabloid reporters that often trailed me. They never did catch us.
Around late 1982, Justin seriously considered coming out. He was fed up living a lie. We talked through the pros and cons many times. It was I who advised him to wait until he (hopefully) sorted out his problems with Brian Clough and got his football career more firmly established.
Sadly, the clash with Clough was not resolved. Their relationship turned from bad to worse. Justin’s performance went into a tail-spin. With no long-term gay partner, he was desperate for emotional reassurance. He turned to evangelical Christianity. Although that did give him a period of stability, it didn’t last.
Becoming a born-again Christian screwed up his life. With his Church damning homosexuality, he became very confused and unhappy about his sexual feelings. Desperate attempts at relationships with women failed. His longing for the love of men never went away. While publicly proclaiming Christian celibacy, he ended up resorting to furtive gay sex. That made it impossible for him to have a stable gay relationship. Caught between God and gayness, he suffered terrible emotional and psychological turmoil.
The combined homophobia of the football profession and Christian fundamentalism was an unbearable strain, sending Justin’s career into free-fall. Things were made worse by a knee injury that would not heal (the pressure he was under may well have compromised his immune system and contributed to the lingering infection). He became erratic and unpredictable, on the pitch and off it.
His major league football career was already over when Fashanu finally came out in 1990. He was distressed by the tragedy of a 17-year-old gay friend who had been thrown out of his family home by homophobic parents, and who subsequently committed suicide. “I felt angry at the waste of his life and guilty because I had not been able to help him”, Fashanu wrote in the book Stonewall 25. “I wanted to do something positive to stop such deaths happening again, so I decided to set an example and come out in the papers”.
Justin was the first and last professional footballer to be open about his homosexuality. That took courage. Others have not shown similar honesty and bravery. At the time, he and I knew of 12 top footballers who were either gay or bisexual. None have followed Fashanu’s example of openness.
Although he later said that he “never once regretted” coming out, the hostile reaction from many in the black community hurt him deeply. He thought that his fellow black people - who know the pain of prejudice and discrimination - would be understanding and supportive. Some were, but many denounced him for bringing “shame” on their race. Still, to this day, Justin is the only prominent black person in Britain to come out as gay.
The manner in which Justin came out in The Sun newspaper was condemned by the black weekly, The Voice, as “an affront to the black community…damaging…pathetic and unforgiveable”.
"We heteros", wrote The Voice columnist Tony Sewell, "are sick and tired of tortured queens playing hide and seek around their closets. Homosexuals are the greatest queer-bashers around. No other group of people are so preoccupied with making their own sexuality look dirty".
"Even if Fashanu had chosen to come out in The Voice rather than The Sun, I doubt his reception would have been any more sympathetic", noted Gay Timesmedia columnist, Terry Sanderson. "Rejection by his own community was profoundly damaging to him".
Even worse was to follow. Justin’s own brother John publicly denounced him: “My gay brother is an outcast”, John told The Voice. Although John later apologised, Justin never fully got over what he saw as betrayal by a brother he loved. Who can blame him for confiding that there were moments during his coming out saga when he felt “incredibly, almost suicidally, lonely”.
Fashanu’s sometimes bizarre, indefensible behaviour can only be fully understood in the context of a potentially brilliant football career cut short, largely by homophobia.
There can be no denying that he progressively disappointed many people who put their hope and trust in him as a role model. He became trapped in a downward spiral of declining football performance, bad debts, false claims about sexual affairs with leading politicians, unreliability and desertion of long-standing friends.
At the time of his death, Justin had embarked on a new career coaching the US football team, Maryland Mania. The team president, A J Ali, is quoted as saying that Fashanu was “happy here”: “He had lots of friends here. He was helping literally thousands of players. He had a tremendous amount to offer the soccer world”.
Those hopes were shattered in April 1998 when a warrant was issued for Justin’s arrest on charges of sexual assault against a 17 year old youth. Fashanu’s suicide note denied the charges, claiming that he was being blackmailed by his accuser.
Whatever the truth about these particular allegations, Justin had - like all of us - his share of failings. Without excusing these mistakes, they were the culmination of a lifetime of rejection. That rejection began when, as a young boy, he was given up by his parents and put in a Barnardo’s Children’s Home. It was compounded by the racist jibes he suffered on the football pitch, and by the homophobic abuse inflicted on him at Nottingham Forest by his manager Brian Clough. When he turned to the Church for solace, it piled on more rejection, condemning his gay lifestyle and demanding that he renounce his sexuality. Then, when he came out as gay, he was rejected by much of his own black community, including his dearly beloved brother, John. Not one prominent black leader supported Justin when he was being crucified in the black press.
Nevertheless, despite all the rejection he endured, Justin had a remarkable, praiseworthy capacity for forgiveness. Talking of the hurt inflicted on him by others, and acknowledging his own errors of judgement, Fashanu wrote in 1994: “I don’t think you ever forget those mistakes, or the mistakes that other people make that wound you, but it is important to forgive”.
Justin Fashanu was a bright shining star - not a flawless star - but a star nonetheless. And I am proud to have counted him as my friend.
After being kidnapped by two criminals during birth, Chappie becomes the adopted son in a strange and dysfunctional family. Chappie is preternaturally gifted, one of a kind, a prodigy. He also happens to be a robot.
(Photo caption: Founder of the Tell Mama hotline Fiyaz Mughal (L) together with famous gay activist Peter Tatchell. (Photo courtesy: The Sunday Express))
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News Sunday, 6 April 2014
The founder of a UK-based hotline that helps fight Islamophobia is recruiting senior figures from the gay and Jewish communities to send out a message against all forms of intolerance, a local newspaper reported Sunday. The Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) helpline, whose aim is to help victims and measure the level of anti-Muslim attacks in Britain, has invited the famous gay activist Peter Tatchell to become its patron, the Sunday Express reported. The daily also revealed that Tell MAMA’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, will make yet another controversial announcement next week when he officially recruits Richard Benson, a former president of the Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish organization that battles anti-Semitism, to be the group’s joint chairman. Mughal, who started the group in 2012, said that by linking up with key figures from these two communities, a message of tolerance will be proliferated. “We’re clear. If you are homophobic or anti-Semitic, you can’t campaign against anti-Muslim prejudice,” he told the Sunday Express. He added: “The two things just do not go together. If you’re an intolerant figure against someone else, you can’t then cry wolf when something happens to you… We’ll stand against intolerance in all communities.”
There are a
lot of cool things and more importantly, a lot of intelligent ideas present
inside of “Chappie”. I have a few minor issues here and there, mostly with a
single villainous character that while essential, does make the story more
conventional than I would have liked to have seen. I’ll freely admit that it
does serve the story well and does make for some pretty exciting confrontations
This is the
story of the world’s first fully self-aware, sentient artificial intelligence.
A consciousness put inside the body of a broken police robot (an android that
is sent to crush crime in the violent areas of Johannesburg). The problem is
that Chappie (Sharlto Copley, who does the voice and performs via motion-capture)
is not being raised by his maker Deon (Dev Patel). His mother and father (African
rap artists Ninja and Yolandi Visser) are a bunch of thugs that want to raise
this robot to become a bank robber so they can settle their drug debt.
What I like
best about this movie is also in a way, it’s fault. There are so many different
things and ideas going around. You have the concept of the artificial
intelligence, Chappie (who begins its life as a child) growing up at an
incredibly quick pace, the moral implications of child soldiers and/or of
brainwashing children to do crimes, and the plot of Deon trying to figure out
what he is going to do about Chappie being led astray. That’s already a lot,
but there’s even more going on. The film also talks about transhumanism,
robotic police forces, the the gangster life and how poverty affects people’s
growth, tensions within the office between people wanting to have robots as strictly
military weapons and Deon believing that the next step is a more peaceful,
gentle creation. There’s even more, but any details about those plot points
would be spoiling the movie. I love all of these subjects because the central
idea of this film, the very first artificial intelligence being raised in a
world that doesn’t understand it naturally flows into all of these other
concepts very organically. The problem is that there are so many different
ideas going on that there isn’t a lot of room for them to breathe. If you look
at a similar film like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” for example, that movie
deals with complex issues, but not nearly as many which means there is plenty
of time to have moments that “don’t matter”. What I mean by that is moments where
what the characters are talking about aren’t just in there to set up an action
or a plot point later in the film. In that film, a scene where a character is
looking out the window could have easily been cut, but it’s important to give
you a feel of what the characters are like when the plot is going
full-throttle. There aren’t many, if any moments like that in “Chappie” and
it’s a shame because I really would like to see what the characters in this
story would be like on a normal day where nothing exciting happened.
criticism that I have is that this story isn’t really an action movie, but at
times it tries to be. Now don’t get me wrong. I thought the conflict was very
exciting, a lot of fun and very satisfying. I do feel like it could have
possibly being included in a sequel movie though. Because there is so much
going on here, and the movie lasts 2 hours that fly by like it was nothing,
some of the plot points with the villain feel rushed. They made sense to me, I
liked where it went but once again, I would have liked to have seen the villain
be just a regular guy for at least a little bit, so that I could have really
learned what makes him tick before he went all the way bad.
that I really enjoyed here was the down-to-earth, very colloquial style present
throughout. Chappie is being raised by thugs that are criminals, at times not
very likeable and not the kind of people I would ever want to meet in real
life, but I have to admit that I like them as characters. Ninja and Yolandi are
broad characters, but I believed them. They’re dirty, uneducated and simple
people but I did see them grow as characters throughout and I thought the fact
that they were just these random people, they weren’t scientists or even
wide-eyed children gave an extra bit of spice to the story of Chappie. Not to
mention that I am 100% sure that there are actually people like them out there,
and probably more than you would think. I also liked the way they look. They’re
so crazy-looking that you know they’re completely genuine. That means they end
up raising a robot that is totally unique to every other one I’ve seen in any
media. I loved every moment where Chappie was interacting with people because
his personality is a really complex one. I actually think separating Chappie
from his maker was one of the most interesting and smartest things this script
There are a
few things that rubbed me the wrong way, but only slightly. It’s almost like
yeah those issues could have been fixed, but it the story would have changed so
much that it wouldn’t have been anything like the final product we have here so
I can let that go. “Chappie” has the ideas, the characters, the special
effects, the emotion and even the action I hope to see when I check out a new
science fiction movie. It’s a very intelligent movie and I enjoyed watching it,
and discussing it a lot. (Theatrical version on the big screen, March 22, 2015)
James Canellos ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Sharlto Copley in Chappie. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.
The first words a child speaks will always ring loudest in their parent’s memory. “Watch” is the first line uttered by the title robot Chappie in Neill Blomkamp’s latest socially aware science fiction extravaganza. When Chappie first says “watch” it makes one think that we better pay…
Went and saw Chappie tonight. No spoilers, just some thoughts.
I don’t think I’ve had such complex emotions through a movie like that since…District 9. Was not prepared for the feels.
Blomkamp is very very good. He holds nothing back and takes you to places. They are confronting and upsetting and funny and happy in a way that is gritty and awfully human. I didn’t realise this before but his wife Terri Tatchell co-wrote both Chappie and District 9, which might be why both films feel sort of balanced and satisfying in this atypical off kilter way.
Sharlto Copley is amazing. Hugh Jackman is also amazing. Like seriously wtf Hugh, who would have thought you had that in you wow. Die Antwoord were better than I expected tbh. The animation of Chappie’s character is beautiful.
I now need to see Elysium, which i didn’t know til now is another Blomkamp film.
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp Starring: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Ninja and Yolandi, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver Screenplay by: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell Cinematography: Trent Opaloch Music by: Hans Zimmer Rated: R
I expect a bit more from Neil Blomkamp. Despite the action-packed, rapturously macabre masterpiece that is District 9, it was also very intriguing and original in the story department. That is to say District 9 (2009) had a story that trumped even its own beautiful action. Since then it has been the other way around, both for Elysium (2013) and, unfortunately, CHAPPiE.
I will not say that I deplored the film, because I didn’t. I liked the film, very much. It was much funnier and more entertaining than any comedy I’ve seen in recent months. Furthermore the action, especially the riveting climax that was the final battle between Chappie and friends versus Hugh Jackman’s war-machine stayed true to what Niel Blomkamp does best: futuristic-action sequences.
Unfortunately, as a purely science-fiction story, it falls short. In his first Hollywood outing, Blomkamp was able to showcase his originality and potential in the science-fiction world. Today, however, it is as if he is presenting us watered down science-fiction narratives for the soul purpose of exhibiting futuristic weaponry. Very, very Oblivion-esque (2013). Maybe it’s in his contract, that every movie of his needs to bleed action and violence, even if the main attraction, the science, has to take a back seat. Maybe that is what the studios expect to be the money-maker. I’ve got news for the producers. It isn’t.
Also, other film-critiques have deemed him a one-horse pony. That is absurd! I wouldn’t call Elysium and Chappie failures by any means; but I do think that Blomkamp, having made a masterpiece first-film, is being graded on a harder curve than his other writer-director counterparts. I wouldn’t blame the film for a particularly low box-office gross either; it’s very hard to get people to go to the theater these days. But the Home-theatre take over is another matter (sorry for the verbosity).
I went and bought a ticket (repeat, I bought a ticket; I could have just as easily pirated this, mind you, but I stay true to the artists I want to support) to watch how Blomkamp was going to tackle a sentient robot, the what is consciousness question. Instead I got a typical action-comedy masqueraded with a Blomkamp aesthetic and color palette. That may be harsh, but it seems Bloomkamp was going through the motions a little bit. He even started the movie in the trademark documentary-style narrative he is known for from Alive in Joburg (D9’s predecessor), but totally veered away form it once the narrative started, and never came back to it again…? Why even starts that way then? Sloppy. Yes, sloppy is a fitting adjective for the film. What’s the rush? I would have waited a few months for some fine-tuning, no problem. This film deserved one.
Yet, somehow I left the theatre satisfied. Was it worth my money? Yes, every dime. The movie was spectacular in the literal sense. But—a huge but, like Nicki Minaj but—was it worth my time? No. No it wasn’t because it did not open my mind or answer any philosophical questions. That is what science-fiction is supposed to do. There was no real statement being made in this film about artificial intelligence, the future, or anything pertaining to the science; instead it gave us just the same old conciseness is energy bullshit, and by the way it fits in a jump-drive. I’ve got news for you: everything is energy. Einstein figured that out early in the last century. So okay, that’s the statement you want to make, that our consciousness is exactly the same as a mere computer program Deon created, or vice-versa (I’m still not sure), fine. But the fact that this plotline took a backseat and was not even discussed nor explained is what bothered me most. What bothered me second most: SPOILER! that Yolandi had her consciousness stored in a jumpdrive and continued to be alive at the same time, yet at the end they successfully transferred—not copied like Yolandi’s—Deon’s (Patel) consciousness and Chappie’s (Copley) into other robot avatars. So did Deon die and only have his conciseness copied-and-pasted into another robot (like what Chappie did to Yolandi), or was it an actual transfer where Deon’s original self did not die?
Needless to say I expected more from you Mr. Blomkamp, sir. You’re still one of my favorites, nonetheless, and you have my full support to take the reigns on the Alien sequel.