Jake Daniels: “I’ve been hiding who I am”
It’s no secret that a large portion of football fans make the sport a toxic place for different minority communities. Over the past couple of years, the sport has faced intense backlash with its handling of racist comments on the pitchside and on social media. So, it’s no surprise that so few footballers have come out as gay.
At just 17 years old, Jake Daniels, decided to take the plunge and come out to his friends, family and team in front of the nation. Jake, who plays for Blackpool, is the UK’s only openly gay active male professional footballer. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said, “You being you and being happy is what matters most.”
Since coming out, there has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The Premier League tweeted, “the footballing world is with you.” And Trevor Birch, the chief executive of the EFL said, “We hope that this moment helps take us forward to a time where LGBTQ+ representation at all levels of the men’s professional game is the norm.”
Although there is an overwhelming display of love and support in the initial days following the announcement, the biggest concern is that hate will bubble to the surface in the long term. Even though a professional footballer coming out is a big step in the right direction, its unfortunately not enough to change the minds of a fan base who are overtly discriminatory.
“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 health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally,” he said in a statement. “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.” There is no denying that Jake’s coming out is a watershed moment.
Jake has been raised in the sport that he loves. Since the age of 7, he has been signed to Blackpool FC but has only recently signed a professional contract. And, in May of this year, Jake made his first-team debut. As Jake climbs the career ladder, there is hope that he will inspire a new generation of queer kids to take up the sport.
“But 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 to come out and be myself,” he mentions in an official statement on Blackpool FC’s website.
By coming out, Jake Daniel’s has braved the first step towards bringing about a more inclusive sport. Its sadly inevitable that Jake will have an uphill battle and will have to deal with homophobic abuse from the public and fans. Hopefully the support of the past few days will overshadow the negativity and will motivate others to come out.
“Now is the right time to do it,” says Jake – it sure is.