Blackpool football star Jake Daniels has come out publicly as gay becoming the only active male professional footballer in the UK.
Daniels, who plays forward for Blackpool, is the first professional player in British men’s football to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu was the UK’s first professional footballer to come out as gay, but his career was cruelly cut short by homophobia before he took his own life.
Jake Daniels said that he felt like he’s now “ready to tell people my story” as he wants fans to “know the real me”.
“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,” Daniels said. “I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.”
He recalled being about “probably five or six years old “ when he first knew that he was gay so has been “living with the lie” for a “long time”. Daniels described how he didn’t think that “football and being gay doesn’t mix” at that age, adding he thought he would “change” and “get a girlfriend” when he was older.
“But as you get older you realise you can’t just change,” Daniels said. “It doesn’t work like that.”
The 17-year-old player said he thought he would “have to hide my truth” because he wanted to be a professional football player. He even asked himself if he should “wait until I’ve retired to come out” as there were no other openly queer male players in the “professional game here”.
“However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to,” Jake Daniels said.
He continued: “Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone.
“It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”
The young football star explained that he first told his mum and sister that he was gay, and they both reacted by telling him: “Yeah, we already knew.”
“The day after I told my mum and sister, we played Accrington [in an under-18s fixture] and I scored four goals, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders and what a massive relief it was,” Daniels said.
Jake Daniels added that his team, Blackpool, has been “absolutely amazing”, and he’s “felt safe” sharing his authentic self with his teammates. He said that everyone has “had my back” and was asking him “tons of questions”.
Daniels admitted that it’s been a “crazy year” for him as he’d just “signed a professional contract”, “scored 30 goals this season”, “made my first team debut in the Championship” and “decided to come out” in a short period.
But he said it all “feels right” as he wanted to “just live my life how I want to”.
Daniels added that “being gay or bi or queer” in men’s football is “still a taboo” subject and believed such notions came down to “how a lot of footballers want to be known for their masculinity”. He said many people still wrongly “see being gay as being weak” – “something you can be picked on for on the football field”.
Daniels hoped that, by coming out, he can “be a role model” and help “others come out if they want to”. He hated “knowing people are in the same situation I was in” and thought it would be “amazing” if a “Premier League football” did come out as a result.
“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,” Daniels shared. “If they think this kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too.”