Fans applaud Jake Daniels after becoming UK’s first pro male footballer to come out in 32 years

Blackpool football star Jake Daniels stares at the camera with football uniforms in the background

Pro footballer Jake Daniels has been praised for his courage and bravery after he became the first British male football player to come out publicly in 32 years. 

Daniels, who is a forward for Blackpool, came out in a heartfelt interview on Monday (16 May) in which he discussed finally feeling ready to “be myself” and “be confident with it all” after “such a long time of lying” about who he really is.  

The 17-year-old told Sky Sports that he considered waiting until he was retired to come out, but he 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”. 

Countless LGBTQ+ advocates, fans and football organisations praised Jake Daniels for his decision to share his truth with the world.

Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said it took “incredible courage” for Daniels to come out publicly as the “UK’s first openly gay professional footballer in nearly 30 years”. She added the LGBTQ+ charity was also “heartened” to hear about the “solidarity and support” Daniels received from Blackpool FC and his teammates. 

“Football is ready for this moment, and we believe it has been for some time,” Ward said. 

Ward added that society is now “moving towards a world where players can live openly as their true selves, both on and off pitch” which is “something we can all take pride in”. 

“This is an opportunity for everyone involved in football – from the players to the fans in the stands – to support Jake and show that football is everybody’s game,” she said. 

Even prime minister Boris Johnson thanked Jake Daniels for his “bravery” as it “would have taken a huge courage to come out” in a statement on Twitter. Johnson added that the young footballer will be an “inspiration to many both on and off the pitch”. 

It’s worth noting that Johnson’s statement comes after the UK has slipped even further down the ranking of most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Europe under his leadership. 

The annual Rainbow Map, released earlier this month by IGLA-Europe, ranked the 49 countries in Europe based on each nation’s commitment to championing LGBTQ+ equality and advocating for queer rights. 

The UK finished in ninth place on the 2022 map – which assigned a score to countries for their standing in areas like equality, non-discrimination, legal gender recognition and hate crime. 

Last year, the UK came in eighth and had been in fourth the year before. Until 2015, the UK was among the best places in all of Europe for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Jake Daniels is the first active male player in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu was the first active professional footballer in the world to come out as gay, but after years of being hounded by the homophobic press, he died by suicide. 

In 2019, his niece, Amal Fashanu, created the Justin Fashanu Foundation to tackle mental health problems, racism and homophobia in football. 

Amal told the Guardian that Daniels’ decision will “come as a huge comfort to the many footballers at all levels of the game still secretly living as gay and who still feel unable to come out”. 

“If my Uncle Justin were alive I know he would have been one of the first people to have contacted Jake to offer his support and best wishes,” she said. “Justin’s wish was to create a society where people could simply be kinder to one another and where bigotry doesn’t exist.”