Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis wants to make clear that he is not angry over having never been featured on a box of Wheaties.
And he doesn’t need for it to happen now to make his life happy or complete.
But yes, it would be nice.
‘To simply be here, living my life as my true self is rewarding enough,’ Louganis writes in a new WhoSay column. ‘However, I feel like I owe this box to my friends, family, and fans that have been cheering me on for decades. Sure, the Wheaties cover would have been cool in 1984… but after all we’ve been through, it would be even more iconic now.’
It was in 1984 that Louganis won the first two of his four career Olympic gold medals in diving – the second two would come four years later. He also won a silver medal as a 16 year old at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
While fellow Olympians like gymnast Mary Lou Retton were quickly embraced by Wheaties and other companies, Louganis was largely ignored.
‘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 writes. ‘Ouch.’
He adds: ‘People are kind of surprised when I say that I have no hard feelings about being denied a cover. After all, it wasn’t anything personal – it was a sign of the times of Corporate America.’
People had just assumed that an Olympic icon like Louganis, widely considered the greatest diver in history, had been on the Wheaties box at some point. It wasn’t until he pointed out that he had not in his 1995 autobiography that people became aware of the slight.
‘People started showing up at signings holding Wheaties boxes with my picture glued on them,’ he writes. ‘They wanted redemption.’
Earlier this summer, one of those fans decided to do something about it.
Julie Sondgerath of Chicago, Illinois, launched a petition on Change.org urging Wheaties parent company General Mills to finally give Louganis his Wheaties box. It’s been signed by more than 37,000 people so far.
‘Many people don’t realize, or simply forget, how far we’ve come,’ Louganis writes. ‘I’m hoping that if and when my Wheaties cover happens, I can raise awareness about all of the positive work General Mills has been doing for the gay community. I want people to think, “Now, that’s a company I can get behind.”‘