Seventeen-year-old Jake Daniels, who plays for Blackpool, did something this week that no other man has for over 30 years – he publicly came out as gay whilst being an active professional footballer in England.
The last male footballer to do this in England was Justin Fashanu in 1990, who committed suicide eight years later after retiring in 1997.
In an interview conducted by Sky Sports, Daniels said: "Since I've come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything - and the stress it created - has gone.
"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 also gave praise to his fellow teammates within Blackpool’s youth system, who supported him in making his decision. Multiple football pundits, including Jamie Carragher, have also given Blackpool Football Club plaudits for its mature and supportive handling of the situation.
Who is Jake Daniels?
Jake Daniels, born in Bispham, has been part of Blackpool’s youth system since the age of seven. Since then, he has enjoyed success at under-18 level, scoring two goals in three games during this season’s FA Youth Cup. He found the net on 29 occasions last season for the under-18s.
He also made a single appearance for Blackpool’s first team during the 2021/22 season, coming on as a late substitute during their 5-0 away defeat at Peterborough United in May.
Daniels plays predominantly as a striker, but can also function effectively on the wings as well. Earlier in the season, he featured on loan for Bamber Bridge in the Northern Premier League.
He named Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and Tom Daley as key inspirations for his choice to make his homosexuality public.
How significant is Daniels’ announcement?
English football has been criticised frequently for its handling of homophobia and homophobic abuse. Offensive chants from the stands still occur – just this year, several football clubs (including Liverpool and Leeds United) were reprimanded for their fans using homophobic slurs in songs directed at Chelsea.
As previously stated, no male footballer in the English game has come out as homosexual since Justin Fashanu, making Daniels the only active footballer in the English game to be openly homosexual as of right now.
Stonewall, a gay rights group who have been working with Daniels, described English football as “institutionally homophobic” after it conducted a survey back in 2009.
Daniels also feels that the decision to come out will improve his play and give him clarity – he reportedly scored four goals in a single game the day after he came out to his immediate family.
His choice to openly come out as a homosexual could prove to be a turning point for English football, and may also encourage others to come forward.
Several local clubs, including Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster Rovers have given their support to Daniels on Twitter.