Forward Jake Daniels came out publicly as gay. “I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me,” Daniels told Sky Sports.
He said he felt “now is the right time to do it”. Daniels has been part of Blackpool’s under 19 squad this season, scoring 30 goals at youth level. He made his professional debut this month, playing in the Championship match against Peterborough.
“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,” Daniels said.
“I did have girlfriends in the past, to try and make all my mates think I was straight, but it was just a massive cover-up. In school, people even used to ask me: ‘Are you sure you aren’t gay?’. And I would reply, ‘No, I’m not’,” the player added.
“I just don’t want to lie anymore. For a long time, I’ve thought I would have to hide the 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,” Daniels stressed.
Blackpool forward Jake Daniels speaks exclusively to @SkySportsNews on becoming the UK’s first male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 16, 2022
‘It’s a day of great importance for English football’
Ciaran Donelly, the Blackpool Academy Director said: “We’re just immensely proud of him,” adding that “It is a day of great importance for Jake and his family but also for English football. It will go down in history. It is a big, big moment for football players. It is of massive importance.”
Liverpool and England legend Jamie Carragher praised the show of support from Blackpool towards Daniels: “I think the role the football club played is really important. If there are other players in the future, Blackpool have shown a way to do it.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those to react on social media, writing on Twitter: “Thank you for your bravery Jake, it would have taken huge courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch.”
Thank you for your bravery Jake, it would have taken huge courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch. https://t.co/tCmSUBnj5R
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 16, 2022
Josh Martin was the first currently active pro to come out as gay when he made the announcement while playing for Minnesota United in 2018. Josh Cavallo, an Australian player, also came out in 2021.
Justin Fashanu became the first UK openly gay footballer after coming out during an interview for The Sun in 1990. The former Nottingham Forest star took his own life in 1998 when he was 37. Another high-profile name in football to come out was Thomas Hitzlsperger. As a player, he wore the shirts of Aston Villa, West Ham, Everton, Lazio, and Stuttgart, as well as the German national team. He came out in 2014, shortly after retirement.