Blackpool forward Jake Daniels comes out as first openly gay active male footballer in UK

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has come out as the first openly gay active male football in Britain for over thirty years.

The 17-year-old, who made his first-team debut at Blackpool this season, revealed the news in an interview with Sky Sports. His story has rightfully received an outpouring of support for breaking ground for footballers in the UK.

Jake Daniels speaks to Sky Sports

In a candid interview, Daniels said that he had considered not coming out in case it affected his footballing career.

“It felt like I do need to hide it and wait until I’ve retired to maybe come out,” admitted the forward. “But I knew that that’s such a long time of just lying and not being able to have what I want.

“I think it comes down with a lot of footballers want to be known as like masculine, and I think, being gay, a lot of people use it as being weak. So, a lot of people would say, ‘You’re doing that because you’re gay’. They’re going to say it’s because you’re weak, and it’s just not the case. A lot of people don’t want to do that because, in football, they are masculine. It’s something you can get picked on for on the field.”

17-years-old Daniels is aware of the abuse that he may receive for coming out. However, he is not worried that ‘fans’ may hurl homophobic slurs.

“No, I think it is an easy thing for people to target. You know, I’m kind of just learning that, say, I’m playing football on the field, and they’re shouting stuff at me. You’re paying to watch me play football, and I’m living my life, and I’m making money from it. So, shout what you want cos it’s not going to make a difference.”

Finally, the Blackpool youngster hopes that other gay players and people will follow his bravery in the future.

“That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, you know. I think because I am younger, people can think, you know, ‘This kid’s brave enough to do this, so I think and feel like I’ll be able to’, and I just want to do that for other people.”

His decision to come out as an active footballer has received an overwhelming amount of support.

High-profile support

Twitter was awash with admiration for Jake Daniels. Actor Ian McKellen labelled the Blackpool man “a hero”.

“At 17, Jake Daniels represents a generation that rejects old-fashioned homophobia in football and elsewhere,” tweeted the Lord of the Rings actor. “Those who haven’t yet grown up as he has, he sets an example. No wonder so many of us, gay and everywhere else, admire and treasure him as a hero. What a goal he scored!”

Many high-profile names in football have also praised Daniels’ decision to reveal his sexuality. Gary Lineker believes that those in the game will accept Daniels.

“I think he will be massively accepted,” he said to BBC Sport. “Not just in his own dressing room but players he plays against… I’m so pleased as I think he is going down a path many others will follow, and I think the game will be better for it.”

Even club rivals are praising the 17-year-old for his bravery. Preston North End, fellow Championship side and local rivals of Blackpool, sent their support to Daniels.

“Preston North End commend the courage shown by Jake Daniels. We hope his bravery is an inspiration for others to feel they are able to follow in his footsteps,” wrote the Lancashire side on Twitter.

“Football is a game for all.”

Daniels’ news is the first time an active player has come out in British football since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Sadly, at the time, Fashanu did not receive any support for his bravery.

The Justin Fashanu story

Justin Fashanu was an English striker best known for his spells at Norwich and Nottingham Forest. Having risen up through the Canaries academy, Fashanu broke into Norwich’s first team and immediately made an impact with his goalscoring threat.

However, despite their forward scoring 19 goals in 1980/81, Norwich went down to Division Two. As a result, Fashanu moved to Nottingham Forest for £1 million. He became the first black player to transfer for such a figure.

His career under Brian Clough was not as successful as his time at Norwich. Following a brief loan at Southampton, Fashanu moved to Notts County. He also had spells at numerous English clubs and a stint in the US.

In 1990, after fears that a newspaper would “out” him, the forward came out as gay. Unfortunately, his coming out made Fashanu a target for abuse and caused a deterioration in his relationship with brother John.

Tragically, at the age of 37, Justin Fashanu took his own life after being accused of sexual assault in the USA. He believed knowledge of his sexuality would deny him a fair trial.

Over thirty years later, Jake Daniels has received a lot of support for making his courageous decision. Hopefully, this signals an important change in perception in the football world.

Featured image credit: Getty.