Jake Daniels has made history as the UK’s only openly gay active male professional footballer. The Blackpool player made the announcement yesterday through a club statement, accompanied by an exclusive interview with Sky Sports.
“This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my team-mates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup,” the 17 year-old shared.
“But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.”
The announcement makes Jake Daniels the first professional male player in the UK to come out publicly since 1990 when Justin Fashanu groundbreakingly did so. He is also now just the second publicly gay man globally, alongside Josh Cavallo, to be playing in a top-flight league (the EFL Championship) – saying that the Australian alongside other LGBTQ+ athletes inspired his decision.
He also told Sky Sport that he has known he was gay since he was about five or six years old, but “had girlfriends in the past to make all my mates think I was straight”. The Blackpool forward added that on the journey to becoming a footballer, “Because no one else was out, I felt like I had to hide it and wait until I retired to come out, but I just knew that was such a long time of lying and not being able to have what I want.”
Jake Daniels stated that he received fantastic support from his family, and the personal impact of his private coming out was even evident in his footballing performance.
“The day I told my mum and my sister, the day afterwards we played Accrington, and I scored four, so it just shows you what a massive weight off the shoulders it was,” he said.
Despite the male footballing sphere having a negative reputation for LGBTQ+ acceptance, Daniels disclosed that “The club were the first people I told because that’s the environment I’m in every day and I feel safe.
“My teammates have been so supportive about it and they’ve all had my back. They’ve been asking questions and are intrigued about what actually happened, so it’s been amazing. It’s the best thing I could have asked for.”
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) May 16, 2022
It’s not just his teammates that have been expressing their support, but footballers the world over have also praised him for his courage.
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team captain Katie McCabe, who is also openly queer, took to Twitter to say: “Jake, all the love and respect for the incredible courage you’ve shown the world in simply being who you are! I’ve no doubt this will inspire so many more people”. Her partner and Irish teammate Ruesha Littlejohn added “On yersell son”.
Jake, all the love and respect for the incredible courage you’ve shown the world in simply being who you are! I’ve no doubt this will inspire so many more people? ⚽️ https://t.co/WOyjau5MFO
— Katie McCabe (@Katie_McCabe11) May 16, 2022
Former Ireland defender Richard Keogh tweeted: “Very proud of you for this brave statement […] You have our full support”.
Among the others to commend the teenager was England captain Harry Kane, ex-professionals Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, and Gary Lineker, and various clubs worldwide. Dublin-based League of Ireland side Shelbourne FC tweeted: “Inspiring and courageous message here from Jake Daniels”.
Inspiring and courageous message here from Jake Daniels at @BlackpoolFC
— Shelbourne FC (@shelsfc) May 16, 2022
The landmark moment is sure to have a significant impact in terms of LGBTQ+ visibility in male football. Speaking on this, Daniels said: “The subject of being gay, or bi or queer in men’s football is still a taboo. I think it comes down to how a lot of footballers want to be known for their masculinity. And people see being gay as being weak, something you can be picked on for on the football field.
Of course, I am aware that there will be a reaction to this and some of it will be homophobic, maybe in a stadium and on social media. […] I won’t stop people from saying that stuff, I just need to learn how to not let it affect me.
Disappointing to see that Sky Sports have had to turn off comments on a number of posts about Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels coming out.
A teenager being honest about himself shouldn't need to be news, but it does, and some of the reaction shows why. pic.twitter.com/6WcSaGFB59
— Rob O'Hanrahan (@RobOHanrahan) May 17, 2022
“I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant.”
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