Justin Fashanu’s niece says gay footballer Jakes Daniels’ bravery will inspire others to come out

Justin Fashanu and Jake Daniels

The niece of footballer Justin Fashanu, who came out as gay in 1990 before tragically dying by suicide, hopes Jake Daniels’ coming out is proof that the “tide is turning” on homophobia in sport.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, journalist and activist Amal Fashanu said it was “wonderful to see the outpouring of love and support” for Jake Daniels after he became the first male pro-footballer in the UK to come out since her uncle, whose life was “marred by homophobia and racism both on and off the pitch”.

“My uncle was desperate to pave the way for others in the game to live authentically,” she wrote.

“The news about the Blackpool player Jake Daniels coming out has shown just how different the world is now.

“There has been an outpouring of love and support for Daniels in the press and across social media – something that would have been hard to imagine in days gone by.”

She added that the Justin Fashanu Foundation‘s work involves counselling players who are going through discrimination, and that while the organisation respects players’ privacy, she hopes future generations “won’t even need to ask themselves whether it’s safe to come out and be who they are”.

“I don’t want any player to feel like they have to live a double life on and off the pitch.”

Fashanu became the first professional footballer in the UK to come out publicly in 1990, when The Sun offered him money for an interview to pre-empt unauthorised revelations about his sexuality that were about to appear in The Sunday People.

He continued to play football at senior level until 1994 but, according to LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell, he was “blindsided by the backlash” that coming out had on his career, and “received homophobic abuse from some fans”.

Fashanu died by suicide in 1998, aged just 37.

In her article, Amal Fashanu added that “it is a safer time to be gay than in my uncle’s day”.

“There is always more to be done to tackle homophobia and racism, and it would be foolish to claim we live in a world of sunshine and rainbows – especially when Stonewall research shows that 72 per cent of football fans have heard homophobic abuse,” she said.

“But where we are succeeding is in creating space for these conversations to happen, so that when footballers do come out, which they will continue to do, people are already mindful that gay footballers exist.”
She added that she would keep campaigning until a Premiership player comes out.

“His [Jake Daniels] bravery will inspire others who are still in the closet,” she wrote.

“They will be carefully taking in today’s reactions, analysing attitudes, watching fans and judging the atmosphere. Hopefully, in time, they will see that they too can be their authentic selves.”