Jake Daniels says there are ‘definitely’ more gay footballers: ‘Being gay is such an easy target’

Jake Daniels.

Jake Daniels, the UK’s only openly gay male professional footballer, has said there are “definitely” more gay players in the sport. 

Daniels, who plays for Blackpool FC, became the first active, male professional footballer in Britain to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990. He shared his sexuality in an interview with Sky Sports in May 2022. He was 17 at the time.

In an interview for LadBible TV on 2 June, Daniels opened up to former professional footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out after retirement in 2014, about footballers who are yet to come out. 

The 18-year-old told the former Aston Villa and Everton player: “I don’t know of any, I do think that there is. But if there is, you come out when you’re ready. You can’t force anything, it’s their choice.

“I definitely think there’s others in football that are gay.”

Daniels said he felt the public reaction and the use of social media to target players are the biggest factors in preventing most gay footballers from coming out. 

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“And I feel like being gay, or racism, is such an easy target for someone to target you for.

“Someone can say you’re a rubbish player but if you have come out as gay, that’s their first instinct to target you on.

“They’ll be shouting ‘You’re gay’ on the pitch, that’ll be their first thing. I think for footballers, having such a massive fanbase, I feel like that is the main scare of it. It’s social media.”

Jake Daniels also believes that traditional ideas around masculinity in football are part of the reason why few players come out as gay in men’s football. 

“I always have said, masculinity is a thing and in sport, you have to be strong.

“I feel like people refer to being gay as being weak, which is obviously not it. But I just think social media is the biggest thing, I would say.”

Gay midfielder for San Diego Loyal, Collin Martin, has previously said that the barriers stopping players in the top league from coming out “really could be anything”. 

Martin noted that it could be due to “an agent advising a player” to stay in the closet. 

In December 2022, during Channel 4’s Out and Proud in Football documentary, Daniels revealed how diver and Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley had inspired him to be open about his sexuality.

He said that Daley’s 2021 alternative Christmas message, in which the diver said that things could change if “one impossibly brave Premier League player steps forward and says: ‘I am gay’” deeply impacted him in his decision to come out. 

After coming out, Daniels said he met his “soulmate” partner in 46-year-old Mark, who was among the thousands to message him and congratulate him on publicly coming out last year. 

Despite progress in men’s football, there are still few gay pro footballers and homophobia in the sport at large remains rife.

There are still no out gay male players in the English Premier League, and an initiative was set up in January 2023 in a bid to tackle a series of “damaging” homophobic incidents at stadiums across the country.

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