Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels has become the UK’s first active male professional footballer to come out as gay in 32 years. The 17-year-old forward is the first in the men’s professional game to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990 and is now Britain’s only active openly gay professional player.
The star made the announcement in a televised interview. He told Sky Sports: “It’s been quite a crazy year. I’m 17. I’ve signed a professional contract. I’ve scored 30 goals this season and I’ve just made my first team debut in the Championship, coming off the bench against Peterborough.
“And now I have decided to come out. Everything has happened at once but it feels right. When this season started, I just wanted to provide myself as a player. I think I have.
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“So this was the one last thing in my head that I knew I needed to do. Now it’s out, and people know. Now I can just live my life how I want to and you know what? It’s been unbelievable.”
He went on to add that the subject of ‘being gay, or bi or queer’ in men’s football is ‘still a taboo’ and that he hoped to be a ‘role model’ to help others in their journeys. Daniels has shone at youth level for Blackpool in the past season, scoring 30 goals for the under-19s and striking against Chelsea and Newcastle in the FA Youth Cup.
He continued: “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.
“It’s an easy thing for people to target. The way I see it is that I am playing football and they are shouting stuff at me, but they are paying to watch me play football and I am living my life and making money from it. So shout what you want, it’s not going to make a difference. It won’t stop people from saying that stuff, I just need to learn how to not let it affect me.
“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.
“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all. I can’ t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay.
“At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine. But as you get older you realize you can’t just change.
“I wasn’t ready and it was a struggle but I just don’t want to lie any more. For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer.
“I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out. However, I knew that it would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.
“Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental heath. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally I first told my mum and my sister, who I live with.”Yeah, we already knew,” was how they reacted.”
A Blackpool statement read: “Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organizations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on and off the pitch.
“It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.