Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has ended decades of silence within men’s football by becoming the first player in the U.K. to come out as gay in more than 30 years.
Justin Fashanu was the country’s first to come out in 1990, but his professional football career was tragically cut short by homophobia. He committed suicide in 1998.
According to a statement on Blackpool’s website, the 17-year-old player says, “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 come out and be myself.”
He added that he’s been inspired by other gay athletes like Olympic diver Tom Daley and Australian pro soccer player Josh Cavallo.
“I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in,” he says. “I want to be a role model by doing this. There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in.”
We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world. To come out publicly as the first openly gay player in men's professional football in the UK in the last 30 years takes courage. We’re honoured to be supporting him! 🏳️🌈⚽ https://t.co/4q1j9PSNxD
— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) May 16, 2022
In an interview with Sky Sports News, Daniels told the outlet that he’d planned to only come out once he retired from the sport because there are currently no other openly queer male players.
“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,” he says.
Daniels continues by saying the period of overthinking everything and the stress it created is now gone since coming out to his family family, club, and teammates.
“It was impacting my mental health,” he says. “Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”
He also recalls about how he began to figure out he was gay when he was about five or six, and he didn’t think soccer and homosexuality mixed at first.
“I’ve had girlfriends in the past to try and make all my mates think I’m straight, and it was just a massive cover-up,” he says. “So, it has been a struggle.”
Daniels signed with Blackpool in February and made his team debut earlier this month.