This HIV-Positive Olympian Will Finally Be Featured on a Wheaties Box
Diver Greg Louganis gained international fame when he took home gold medals for both the springboard and platform diving events in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic games. But 30 years after those impressive feats, Louganis will finally receive another honor—one that’s become an essential cultural marker of athletic success: appearing on a Wheaties cereal box.
On Monday, the cereal brand’s parent company, General Mills, announced that the Olympian will be featured on the coveted cardboard as part of its new “Legends” series of boxes. Along with Louganis, distance swimmer Janet Evans and hurdler Edwin Moses, both of whom have also won multiple gold medals, will also be featured on the boxes.
“This is an opportunity for Wheaties to highlight past champions who haven’t yet received the honor of being on a Wheaties box for their past athletic achievements,” Wheaties spokesperson Jenna Lynch said in a statement. “Janet, Greg, and Edwin are all world-class athletes, both for the medals they won and everything they accomplished during their careers.”
In the 2015 HBO documentary Back on Board: Greg Louganis, the diver said he likely hadn’t been offered a cereal box in the 1980s because of homophobia, though his sexuality was only rumored at the time.
After Louganis came out as gay and HIV-positive in 1995, all his corporate sponsors except Speedo dropped him. He faced intense criticism for hiding his HIV status—he tested positive for the disease in 1988—because of an accident during the Olympic games in Seoul that same year. Louganis hit his head on a springboard during the preliminary rounds and bled into the pool. The public was outraged that he didn’t disclose being HIV-positive at the time, although his blood posed little threat to other divers after it was exposed to the chlorinated water in the pool.
Louganis said in the 2015 documentary that he believed General Mills didn’t feature him on a Wheaties box because he lacked the “wholesome image” of other athletes who had previously appeared on them.
Last year, however, fans of Louganis started an online petition to finally get him on a Wheaties box. Though the petition received more than 43,000 signatures, General Mills said it did not play a role in the company’s decision to include the diver in the Legends series.
On Tuesday, Louganis told NPR that he is able to appreciate the recognition more now than he would have at the height of his athletic career.
“Back in ’95, I wasn’t expected to live very long, because we thought of HIV-AIDS as a death sentence,” he said. “So to be here today, now 56, the box means so much more to me than it would have then, because I feel like I’m being embraced as a whole person, not just for my athletic achievements.”
Louganis, now a vocal LGBT activist, has also served as inspiration to those who’ve come after him.
In 2012, Australian Olympic gymnast Ji Wallace was moved to speak out about his HIV-positive status after seeing an interview on CNN with Louganis and Piers Morgan.
“When I was writing a thank-you letter to Piers Morgan—for just interviewing Greg as a person, not Greg the HIV diver—these words were ringing in my head: ‘There is value in being seen and heard,’ ” Wallace told HIV Plus magazine.
British Olympic diver Tom Daley, who is openly gay, also praised Louganis. “I would have always wanted someone like him as a role model on the front of a cereal box,” he told NPR. “He’s a great model and forever will be the greatest diver to walk this earth.”
The Wheaties boxes featuring Louganis, Evans, and Moses will be available starting in May.