Jake Daniels one year on: ‘I’m proud of football’s response’

Daily News
11 Min Read

Jake Daniels says he is proud of how the stigma around football has changed a year on since the Blackpool forward became the UK’s first active male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay.

Daniels was just 17 when he told his story to Sky Sports News, with Justin Fashanu the last male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay in the UK back in 1990.

He never imagined the positive response he would get. Harry Kane, Gary Neville and Prince William – to name just a few – were among those who applauded his courage in an outpouring of support on social media in the days that followed.

Now, 12 months on, he tells Sky Sports News people still continue to reach out to him and he is proud to be able to be a role model to others.

“It was such a surreal experience,” said Daniels. “I can’t believe it’s been a year already because it has gone so quick.

“It’s been amazing. It’s been better than I expected if I’m completely honest. I’ve just had positivity everywhere and it’s brought me closer to so many people.

“I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better for myself.”

‘For me to fit in as myself was amazing’

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels on how the dressing room reacted to him coming out:

“I didn’t expect them to react how they did.

“When I did tell them, they all started clapping and telling me how proud they were of me and, as a team, we always have to be together and have that bond, and it brought everyone closer together.

“For me to actually fit in with them as my actual self, it was just so amazing for me to be able to do that.”

He added: “So many people have reached out.

“For the first two or three weeks my agent took over my Instagram, so I didn’t see a lot of the comments, but still now I get parents of kids, the kids themselves, older people and younger people all saying how long they’ve had to live their lives a lie and they’ve been able to come out because of something I’ve done.

“It’s such a warm, proud moment for me. For me to do that and come out and then for someone else to be able to do that, it’s a proud moment.”

Norwich City wore t-shirts in support of Daniels ahead of their final game of last season against Tottenham

Image: Norwich City wore T-shirts in support of Daniels ahead of their final game of last season against Tottenham

“Yes, 100 per cent [I feel like a role model],” he added.

“People are still messaging me now and stopping me on the street, and I am that role model for people.

“It’s a proud moment to be able to help other people in their lives.”

When asked if we are any further forward in ending the stigma of being gay in football, he replied: “I think we are. Since I’ve come out there have been referees and we’ve had Zander [Murray] over in Scotland who has come out.

“It has kind of got the ball rolling a bit more and I am hopeful that maybe next year or the year after we’ll have a top-flight Premier League footballer who is able to come out and live his life as an active UK footballer.”

‘Being myself is the best thing I coul dhave ever asked for’

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels on being able to be himself for the first time:

“I wouldn’t have ever expected it to happen. The amount of confidence I have and when people say it’s a real weight off your shoulders, that saying is true.

“I remember the first time I told my mum, I was dancing around the room. I was joyful and this has been the best part of my life. Being able to live truly as myself has been the best thing I could have ever asked for.”

‘You can’t force it’ | Daniels understands why no Premier League players have come out

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‘You can’t force someone to come out’ – Daniels is not surprised that no Premier League players have followed his lead and come out, but he hopes more will follow so it can ‘become the norm’

At the time of his announcement a year ago, Daniels said he hoped to become a role model for other players to feel comfortable enough to come out, if they wanted to, and while there have been examples, with Getafe midfielder Jakub Jankto, who is on loan at Sparta Prague, and Adelaide United defender Josh Cavallo both also coming out, no Premier League player has followed suit yet.

Daniels is surprised but not disappointed that no top-flight footballers in England have come out since he told his story.

“Since I’ve come out there has been rumours of Premier League footballers who might be coming out but you can’t force someone to come out,” he said.

“If they want to come out, then they will. You can’t force it, but hopefully there is that courage to come out because we need that group to keep getting larger so it can just move on in football and it can become the norm.”

When asked if any footballers have got in touch privately for help, and if they did what would be his advice, he added: “Sadly not, but I am hoping someone does because I am probably the only person with that full guidance, and I can give them it.

“For me, if I saw that message, it would be a proud moment and maybe a teary moment to be completely honest.

“The best thing I ever did was speak out and it will be difficult.

“It was my life lie and it was difficult to speak out, but the best thing I did was speak to someone and I was able to come out fully then.

“Obviously, it’s up to you. You can’t feel pressured. It’s if you are feeling right and want to come out.

“Don’t feel pressured and speak to people, it’s the best thing I ever did.”

Daniels on social media: ‘Negative responses don’t affect me anymore’

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels on dealing with the social media reaction to him coming out:

“On social media, it’s a difficult one. People can just hide behind a screen or a keyboard and say what they want.

“However, there are always 10,000 positive messages and just one negative comment , but you just focus on it and it stays in your mind.

“For me, the first few weeks were difficult, but I think the only thing I can do now is laugh at it and say I’m a footballer, I’ve been able to come out and do what I’ve wanted to do for my whole entire life. So, it doesn’t really affect me much anymore.”

‘It’s time to kick on’ – Daniels aims for the first team

People forget he’s only 18. He’s an exceptional young man. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. He’s an exceptionally talented footballer and we hope one day he’ll be playing in the Premier League.

Daniels’ announcement came at the end of a season in which he scored more than 30 goals and made his professional debut in the Championship.

However, the 18-year-old admitted the year that followed was extremely difficult for him and his football took a back seat this season.

A break from the game seems to have rejuvenated Daniels, who says he is ready to kick on and make an impact again next season.

He said: “It’s been difficult coming out and being 17. It was quite a lot for me to adjust to.

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Daniels remarkably found the top corner on the set of Soccer AM!

“In regards to being a footballer, I had some time off mentally and I’ve just been trying to work on myself.

“I didn’t go back in the best fitness but now, after a year, it’s time for me to kick on, go back into pre-season and work as hard as I can.

“And with Blackpool, we might get a new manager, maybe somebody who likes to play the youngsters and bring them through.

“It’s then my opportunity to kick on and get into the first team.”

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