After 30 years, this gay Olympian is getting the recognition he deserves.

Sometimes when the Internet speaks, the big corporations listen.

Consider the case of Greg Louganis, the award-winning Olympic diver whose handsome mug has been conspicuously absent from a certain sports-inspired cereal box since the height of his record-breaking career in the 1980s.

"Never got a Wheaties box," Louganis said in an HBO documentary about his life. "Their response was that I didn’t fit their wholesome demographics or whatever. Basically, being gay, or being rumored that I was gay."


Shortly after the documentary aired, a Change.org petition popped up, garnering more than 43,000 signatures in support of Louganis earning his rightful place as the temporary visage on the breakfast of champions.

On April 4, 2016, General Mills announced that Louganis would finally get his due.

Well. Kind of.

Image from General Mills.

General Mills named Louganis as one of three athletes who "haven’t yet received the honor of being on a Wheaties box for their past athletic achievements."

According to a blog post announcement, Louganis will be joined by Janet Evans, an Olympic swimmer who held seven world records and four gold medals, and was celebrated for her short stature and unorthodox swimming style; and Edwin Moses, an eight-time gold medal-winning track-and-field Olympian who is also remembered for his innovations in reforming Olympic eligibility rules and drug-testing policies. Their respective individual boxes will be available from May through August 2016.

"Their accomplishments certainly put them into consideration for the cover of a Wheaties box at the time, along with several outstanding world champion athletes who were selected by the brand team in their era," said Kevin Hunt, a social media manager for global communications at General Mills. "But today … there’s no time like the present for Janet Evans, Greg Louganis, and Edwin Moses."

However, Mike Siemienas, manager of brand media relations at General Mills, made it clear that their decision to recognize these remarkable athletes after-the-fact was "not about who gets the most votes or who gets petitions."

Image from General Mills.

Whether the petition made a difference or not, General Mills missed a big opportunity with this announcement.

Look, we can't presume to know what goes on behind closed doors at General Mills (although we're pretty sure it involves lots of tasty cereal). But it does seem suspect that this announcement would come on the heels of Louganis's heavily-publicized documentary and the petition it inspired.

On one hand, it makes sense that General Mills would want to save face and pretend this "throwback series" was just a nifty coincidence, rather than saying, "Yeah we totally screwed up by giving in to homophobia at the height of the AIDS scare in the '80s. Our bad. But we can make it right now, so hey — better late than never!"

On the other hand: Imagine the kind of statement it would make if a major corporation stood up and said, "Discrimination is wrong. We made a mistake, and we're sorry."

Greg Louganis at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images.

Despite their egregious gaffe with Louganis, Wheaties does have a fairly positive history of diversity.

They broke ground with Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the first female athlete to appear on the box in 1935, followed one year later by Jesse Owens, their first black athlete. They also recently made a special commemorative box to celebrate Evan Wolfson, a lawyer, gay rights activist, and founder of Freedom to Marry.

And of course, Caitlyn Jenner was a spokesperson for the company for even years (even if she wasn't out at the time).

Muhammed Ali didn't receive a Wheaties box until 1999, likely due to the public controversies around his conversion to Islam and his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams/Stringer/Getty Images.

The fact that this new box collection of heroes from the past includes a black man, a woman, and an out gay man is still a major step forward for representation.

When people see other people like themselves being recognized for their accomplishments, it sends a message that they matter too.

But it doesn't just matter to the world-at-large; it also means the world to the athletes, even if that recognition is a little after-the-fact.

"This means so much more than it would have back then," Louganis told the New York Times. "Getting it now means people will see me as a whole person — a flawed person who is gay, HIV-positive, with all the other things I've been through."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less