Blackpool’s Jake Daniels on proving his prowess as a gay footballer: ‘I don’t have to live a lie’

Blackpool FC's Jake Daniels playing football

Jake Daniels, England’s only openly gay male professional footballer, has opened up about the impact coming out has had on his life and the support he’s received from his teammates.

Daniels, 18, came out as gay during an interview with Sky Sports last year, making him the first active professional footballer in England’s top four men’s divisions to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

The League One Blackpool FC forward remains one of the few out LGBTQ+ high-profile players, alongside footballers such as Czech Cagliari player Jakub Jankto and Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo. 

As Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign wraps up for another year, Daniels told Daily Star Sport how after coming out, he’s received nothing but support from his teammates and the main pressure he feels is to simply prove that he’s a good footballer, as all players do.

“I am a footballer at the end of the day and I didn’t want it to change who I am,” he said.

“Obviously I am a gay footballer, but at the end of the day, I am just a footballer and I just want to be a professional footballer. That is my main focus.

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“I wouldn’t say there is a lot of pressure, it’s just to prove to people that I am a good footballer.”

Daniels admitted to feeling “nervous” about sharing his sexuality with his fellow Blackpool players, but his anxiety ended up being unfounded.

“My teammates, we have different religions and backgrounds, so that was a nervous thing for me, we didn’t know what reaction to expect,” he told The Daily Star.

“Everything was 100 per cent positive, I have never had any negativity from my teammates, everyone just supports me and that was definitely an amazing thing.

“In football, it is a sport where we haven’t seen someone come out for over 30 years, so me at such a young age, being able to do that, I was going into the unknown. Social media we know can be so negative, but everything I saw was positive and that is the best thing I wanted to see.”

Blackpool’s Jake Daniels during the Sky Bet Championship match between Peterborough United and Blackpool at London Road Stadium on 7 May 2022 in Peterborough, England. (Lee Parker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

As one of only a handful of out male professional footballers worldwide, Daniels’ journey has clearly had an impact – something that’s apparent in the heartfelt messages he’s received from fans.

“I think the best thing for me was seeing people’s parents saying like ‘my son or my daughter has just come out to me’, and it was amazing to see those messages,” he said.

And it’s not just personal stories from fans. Daniels noted that there is a wider shift happening in the beautiful game.

“Around football, I am seeing a lot more pride flags being flown, I am seeing changes, people will now be banned from grounds for being racist or saying anti-LGBTQ stuff onto the pitch,” he explained. “There is definitely change.”

The League One trailblazer stresses that coming out has been a net positive for his life and his game.

“I was able to actually be me,” Daniels said. “I wasn’t having to live my life as a lie anymore and I was able to be me every single day.

“I haven’t changed as a person, I am still the Jake that I always have been, I am just able to live my life how I want to and I don’t have to hide anything or be careful with what I say around people to try and not give it away that I was gay, like I did at the time.

“To be able to me is just amazing.”

Sir Ian McKellen, Prince William, Gary Lineker and Jack Grealish are just some of the British cultural icons who have spoken out in support of Daniels.

The Blackpool forward has previously called coming out the “best thing I’ve ever done”, and said his decision to be open about his sexuality has allowed him to perform better on the pitch.

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