General Mills, the giant food company behind Wheaties, has put three Olympic champions on the front of its cereal boxes.
The company has selected four-time Olympic gold medal winner Janet Evans, two-time gold medallist hurdler Edwin Moses and four-time gold medallist diver Greg Louganis as athletes who will be featured on its latest Wheaties Legends series of boxes, the company announced in a blog post on Tuesday.
Seeing your image on a Wheaties box is an age-old honor for athletes, and a tradition for Wheaties dating back to 1934, when it put baseball great Lou Gehrig on the back of its boxes to celebrate its still-used tagline “The Breakfast of Champions.” Since then, the brand has particularly highlighted Olympic champions such as gymnast Mary Lou Retton, sprinter Jesse Owens and decathlete Bruce Jenner.
It is the inclusion of Louganis this round that is particularly noteworthy. Louganis, who many consider as the greatest diver in the sport’s history, was the subject of a Change.org petition last year calling for his own dedicated Wheaties box.
Aside from his Olympic credentials, Louganis is also known for publicly declaring in a 1995 interview with Oprah Winfrey that he was gay and HIV-positive. During the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Louganis hit his head on a springboard during a dive, and at the time, was secretly HIV-positive.
These details were featured in a recent HBO documentary called Back on Board: Greg Louganis, where the diver mentioned in the film that he had never been featured on a Wheaties box for one particular reason. “Their [Wheaties] response was that I didn’t fit their wholesome demographics or whatever. Basically, being gay, or being rumored that I was gay,” he said in the film, as reported by NBC.
The subsequent petition arising from this revelation garnered around 41,000 signatures, and was presented to General Mills officials in Minneapolis, the Times reported. Marketing executives at the company, however, downplayed the petitions’ influence, with Mike Siemienas, manager of brand media relations at General Mills (GIS), saying the choices were “not about who gets the most votes or who gets petitions.”
Louganis doesn’t seem to be holding any ill will to the brand, and celebrated the news on Twitter.