English footballer Jake Daniels announced he is gay on Monday in a trailblazing moment for the European men’s game.
The 17-year-old forward is at the start of his career playing with second division club Blackpool, whose season has ended.
“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,” Daniels told broadcaster Sky Sports. “I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.”
“This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my team-mates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup,” Daniels said in a statement from Blackpool.
“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.
It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.
I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.
There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in.
You being you, and being happy, is what matters most,” he wrote.
The only other openly gay man currently playing in a top division in world football is Josh Cavallo of Australian team Adelaide United. The 22-year-old midfielder made the announcement in October ahead of their season.
The only openly gay man to have played in English football’s professional leagues was Justin Fashanu, who was not active at a high level when he made the announcement in 1990. The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker was found hanged in a London garage at age 37. The Justin Fashanu Foundation calls him the “world’s first openly gay professional footballer.”
It is a rarity in world sports for men to announce they are LBTQ+.
Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas came out in 2009, two years before he retired.
The first active NFL player to come out as gay was Carl Nassib in 2021 while he was at the Las Vegas Raiders. The defensive end was released by the team in March.
The first openly gay player in the NBA was Jason Collins while playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.