Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels (17), has become the first active professional male football player in England to come out as gay in 32 years. Daniels came out in a self-penned essay which was published on the Sky Sports website.

Daniels wrote, “I just don’t want to lie any more ” and said he was inspired by Australian footballer Josh Cavallo, who came out last year.

“Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me,” wrote Daniels. 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. And now I have decided to come out.”

Prior to Daniels coming out, Justin Fashanu was the only out football player in British sports history. Fashanu took his own life in 1998 at the age of 37.

Being Gay Or Bi Or Queer In Men’s Football Is Still A Taboo

“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,” said Daniels.

Daniels spoke out about the pressures gay athletes face when trying to determine whether coming out is the right move for them.

“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. 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.” 

I Thought I Would Have To Hide My Truth

Jake Daniels

“I won’t stop people from saying that stuff, I just need to learn how to not let it affect me.” 

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

Daniels also praised his club and teammates for their support, saying, “Blackpool have been absolutely amazing too. I am with them every day and I felt safe. My team-mates have all been so supportive about it and everyone has had my back. They’ve been asking tons of questions, they have all been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It’s the best thing I could have asked for.” 

Inspired By Josh Cavallo

Daniels also wrote an open letter to Blackpool fans which was posted on the Blackpool website. In the letter, Daniels referred to the positive influence Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo had on him when making his decision to come out.

“Its a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but Ive been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.”

Ultimately Daniels has one main hope and that is to inspire others.  “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.”

“If they think this kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too,” Daniels wrote.

‘It Takes Incredible Courage’

The reaction to Daniels story was swift and overwhelmingly positive. Liz Ward, Director of Programmes at Stonewall, in a statement said, “We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world. To come out publicly as the UKs first openly gay professional footballer in nearly 30 years takes incredible courage, and were heartened by the solidarity and support he has received from Blackpool FC and his teammates.” 

“We are moving towards a world where players can live openly as their true selves, both on and off pitch – and that is something we can all take pride in…This is an opportunity for everyone involved in football – from the players to the fans in the stands – to support Jake and show that football is everybodys game,” Ward said.

Meanwhile the Professional Footballers’ Association tweeted, “We are extremely proud of Jake and have been working with him and his club. He has the complete support of everyone at the PFA.” 

“The whole football community must continue to work to make our game an environment where all those involved feel safe and supported, and where they feel comfortable when choosing how to tell their own stories.”

“Our message to anyone in the game who’s thinking about a similar, extremely personal decision is simple – whatever you decide, and however you choose to move forward, we are here for you. As your footballing family we will give you all the support you need, whenever you need it,” the Association said.

Proud Of Daniels’ Bravery, Says Josh Cavallo

Adelaide United midfielder Cavallo, who became the first male professional Australian footballer to come out during their active playing days when he came out last year, said he was proud of Daniel’s bravery. “As myself and Adelaide United prepare for the A-League semi-final, I want to stop and take a moment to acknowledge Jake’s announcement and say how very proud I am for his bravery,” Cavallo said. “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that my story has helped guide Jake to be his true self,” The Guardian quoted Cavallo as saying.

“It’s touching to see the millions of people that my story has impacted and inspired around the world, and to see it help evolve the world game at all levels, is fantastic. This world and the game of football has a place for everyone. Love will always win.”

A slew of other celebrities, athletes and sport associations showed their support for Daniels on social media. Eddie Izzard tweeted, “I salute you Jake,” SPORTbible tweeted, “we respect you and admire you Jake,”while ESPN UK called Daniels “incredibly brave.”

Molly Hudson, a Premier League football reporter for the Times tweeted, “One of the many lovely parts of this Jake Daniels coming out story is that Sky Sports News and his club, Blackpool, have been aware of it for several months and it hasn’t leaked, and they’ve worked out the best way for him to share his story. There are good people out there.”

‘I Dreamed Of Becoming A Professional Footballer’

Daniels signed his first professional contract with Blackpool on 25 February, and on May 8 he posted an emotional message on Instagram saying, “Since I was a small boy all I ever dreamed of was becoming a professional footballer and making my debut for my hometown football club.”

“Today that dream became a reality and I couldnt be anymore prouder. I just want to thank the gaffer for trusting me, all the academy staff for everything theyve done for me and all the support they given me over the last 12 months, my family for always being there and to all those whove supported me on my journey.”

“I will never forget today, that feeling of seeing my shirt, hearing my name on the tannoy, running out on to that pitch……….wow is the only word I can find to sum it up!!!”

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