Greg Louganis will be featured on the cover of Wheaties boxes for the first time starting next month. The diving great, who was among the first prominent athletes to come out as gay, was featured in an HBO documentary that sparked renewed interest in his story by the cereal maker.
Greg Louganis was part of an online petition that surfaced seeking support for the Wheaties honor, according to New York Times. The Times also reported that Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses and swimmer Janet Evans will also be featured on Wheaties boxes for the first time in May.
General Mills plans to officially unveil each box this week. The manufacturer provided images of the three boxes to ESPN on Monday night.
“Edwin and I were in the 1976 Olympics together,” Louganis said in a telephone conversation last week. “He was my hero. God, he was my inspiration to get trust funds put in place for the athletes coming behind me.”
“I watched Janet grow up at Mission Viejo,” he added.
Julie Sondgerath, an IT professional in Chicago, started the Greg Louganis petition on Change.org. “From the moment I hit send on the petition, I knew this was possible,” Sondgerath said. She took 41,000 printed Wheaties box petitions to General Mills’ offices in Minneapolis a month later.
“Having an authentic conversation with them was helpful and was potentially a catalyst to genuinely think about it,” she said.
Sondgerath, who was in high school when Louganis won gold, said she found Greg Louganis’ email online the next day with a link to the petition. He returned the note that same day, thanking her, but at the same time, Sondgerath said it seemed like Louganis didn’t have much hope that anything would come of it.
Greg Louganis, 56, became the only man in diving history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in both springboard and platform diving in 1984 and ’88, but he found that opportunities available to other Olympic stars eluded him. He has said previously that he came to believe it was because his sexuality had not remained a secret within his sport even when he had yet to come out.
“The times have changed so drastically and so fast,” Louganis said in the interview. “When I came out to my mom, she feared I’d always be a second-class citizen and never have a chance to be married. “But Johnny and I are married,” Louganis said of Johnny Chaillot, whom he wed in 2013. “And we’re making a life together.”
In a 2015 HBO documentary called Back on Board: Greg Louganis, the diver said he understood that he wasn’t featured on the Wheaties box during the prime of his career in the 1980s because he didn’t fit the company’s requirement of a “wholesome image” as he was rumored to be gay. Louganis came out publicly about his sexual identity and HIV-positive status in 1995.
Greg Louganis became the only man to sweep the Olympic diving events in back-to-back games when he won gold medals in both springboard and platform diving in the ’84 and ’88 Olympics. Louganis is now a role model for other athletes including British Olympic diver Tom Daley, who came out as gay when he was around 20 years old.
“I would have always wanted someone like him as a role model on the front of a cereal box,” Daley said. “He’s a great model and forever will be the greatest diver to walk this earth.”
General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said he couldn’t provide an answer as to why Greg Louganis wasn’t on the box previously because no one who was involved in those decisions still worked at the company. Siemienas said a committee is responsible for determining which athletes are on the boxes.
Siemienas also brushed off the possibility that General Mills left Louganis off a Wheaties box when he won gold in 1984 and 1988 due to prejudice.
“They didn’t come out and say it, but the message was loud and clear. They knew I was rumored to be gay, and homosexuality wasn’t going to fly on a wholesome Wheaties box,” Louganis wrote last year on celebrity social media service WhoSay.
As for Greg Louganis, he says that he appreciates the honor more now than he would have in the 1980s. Louganis doesn’t seem to be holding any ill will to the brand, and celebrated the news on Twitter.