Saturday, June 25, 2022

Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels, 17, has become the first player since Justin Fashanu to come out as gay

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“I’m just confident and happy to finally be myself,” says the striker as he becomes the first player to come out while playing in the top tier of British men’s football in over 30 years

In conversation with Sky sports newsThe 17-year-old player said he was ready “to be myself” after “being able to lie and not have what I want for so long”.

Blackpool FC striker Jake Daniels has come out as gay, becoming the only out player currently playing in the top divisions of British men’s football.

He told the broadcaster: “For a long time I thought I had to hide my truth because I wanted and am a professional footballer. I was wondering if I should wait until I retired to come out. No other professional player is out here.”

He added: “The topic of being gay, bi or queer is still taboo in men’s football. I think it comes down to how many footballers want to be known for their masculinity.

“People see being gay as weak, something to be teased for on the football field. Of course I am aware that there will be a reaction to this and that it will be homophobic at times, maybe in a stadium and on social media.

“The way I see it, I’m playing football and they’re yelling at me, but they’re paying for me to play football and I’m living my life and making money from it. So scream what you want, it won’t make a difference.”

Daniels said he has already come out to his family, club and team-mates, adding: “That time of reconsideration and the stress that comes with it is over. It affected my mental health.

“Now I’m just confident and happy to finally be myself.”

He is the first player since Justin Fashanu to do so in 1990 amid rumors about his personal life – taking his own life eight years later after years of homophobic abuse.

Other players have since come out, including ex-West Ham and Everton player Thomas Hitzlsperger, but none have done so while playing in the top tier of British men’s football.

There have been numerous LGBT+ players in women’s sport, including celebrated former England captain Casey Stoney.

Justin Fashanu’s niece, Amal Fashanu, commended Daniels “for the immense courage he has shown today in taking this step to go public with his sexuality.”

She said: “If my uncle Justin had been alive he would have been one of the first to contact Jake to offer his support and best wishes.

“The sad reality is that there is still a lot of homophobia in the game, on all levels. Until the authorities take more decisive and decisive action, I am afraid that many players will continue to live in hiding, mistakenly believing that they have something to be ashamed of. “

Boris Johnson was among the well-wishers, replying: “Thank you for your courage Jake, it would have taken tremendous courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many, both on and off the pitch.”

Keir Starmer added: “This shows real courage and bravery and will serve as an inspiration to many young people across the country. Thank you Jake We are all with you.”

Daniels said he received “some of the best support and advice from my family, my club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly proactive in putting my interests and well-being first.”

Blackpool FC said they have “worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant football organizations to support Jake” and are “incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on and off the pitch “.

Liz Ward, Stonewall’s Director of Programming, said: “We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world.

“To come out publicly as Britain’s first openly gay professional footballer in almost 30 years takes incredible courage and we are heartened by the solidarity and support he has received from Blackpool FC and his team-mates.”

Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett said the news was “not only an incredible step in his own personal journey, but his integrity and courage is an inspiration to all of us, in football and beyond.”

He added: “The courage Jake has shown today will hopefully help show that men’s football is becoming an environment where LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and comfortable to be their authentic selves.

“We now have a renewed responsibility to him and the entire LGBTQ+ community to work with all clubs and stakeholders to ensure he has the right support now and that the infrastructure is in place to ensure he can continue his football journey with everyone other 17 year olds.

“This is a big story and a historic day in English football but we have to remember there is a young man at the center. A young man who should not be defined by this moment or part of his identity.

“We wish Jake a long and prosperous career in football. He has our full and unwavering support.”

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