Human SexualityNewsBlackpool Player, Jake Daniels Comes Out As Gay

Teenage Blackpool FC player, Jake Daniels has come out gay, becoming the only openly gay male professional footballer in Britain.

The Blackpool FC forward, 17, in an interview with Sky Sports News monitored by our correspondent, said he felt ready to “be myself” after “such a long time of lying” about who he is.

“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it,” Daniels told Sky Sports. “I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.”

The striker said he originally felt the need to hide his sexuality to become a professional footballer and wait until he was retired to come out.

“For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my 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. However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.”

Daniels said he knew he was gay at around age five or six, and that he initially believed his sexuality would change as he gets older.

“I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay,” he said.

“At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay mixes. You just think, ‘one day when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine’. But as you get older you realise you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.

“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’. I wasn’t ready and it was a struggle but I just don’t want to lie any more.”

Daniels said hiding who he really was had an impact on his mental health, and that telling family, friends and teammates had lifted a weight off his shoulders.

“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. It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”

As the only active male player in the English professional game to be openly gay, Daniels hopes he can inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

“Of course, I am aware that there will be a reaction to this and some of it will be homophobic, maybe in a stadium and on social media. I won’t stop people from saying that stuff, I just need to learn how to not let it affect me,” he told Sky Sports.

“I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant. If they think, ‘this kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too’.”

The young footballer said he has received amazing support from his family, friends and Blackpool FC.

Reacting to Daniels coming out, his club Blackpool said: “Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on-and-off the pitch.

“It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”

Daniels is the first male professional player to come out since Justin Fashanu did in 1990.

Fashanu, who took his own life in 1998, faced a fierce backlash from football fans, and the fear of homophobic abuse has been a key reason for the lack of players following suit in subsequent years.

By Ezinwanne Onwuka (Senior Reporter)

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