Jake Daniels’ decision to come out as gay is an historic day for English football, the game’s anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out has said.
The 17-year-old Blackpool forward released a statement via his club on Monday afternoon, making him the only openly gay male professional footballer currently active in Britain.
Daniels’ move received widespread praise, and Kick It Out’s chief executive Tony Burnett said it was now vital he was given the correct support.
“The bravery Jake has shown today will hopefully go some way to showing that men’s football is becoming an environment in which LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and comfortable to be their authentic selves,” Burnett said.
“We now have a renewed responsibility to him and the LGBTQ+ community at large to work with all clubs and stakeholders to ensure that he receives the right support now, and that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that he can continue on his footballing journey like any other 17-year-old.
“This is a big story, and an historic day in English football, but we need to remember that there is a young man at the heart of it. A young man who should not have to be defined by this one moment, or this one part of his identity.
“We wish Jake a long and successful career in football. He has our full and unwavering support.”
Rainbow Laces campaign a big success
Liz Ward, the director of programmes at LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall, added: “Football is ready for this moment, and we believe it has been for some time.
“Our Rainbow Laces campaign has taught us that, while there is still a way to go, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in sport are changing.
“We are moving towards a world where players can live openly as their true selves, both on and off pitch – and that is something we can all take pride in.
“Stonewall is proud to provide ongoing support to Jake, his close network and Blackpool FC to navigate the challenges of coming out in the public eye. 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.”
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay shortly after his retirement, wished Daniels a wonderful career and said he was glad to see he had the support of his club and Stonewall to make the announcement possible.
The Football Association said Daniels was “an inspiration to us all” and added: “We fully support your decision to be open about this part of yourself. Football is a game for all, with diversity at its heart, and this is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of.
“We are with you and we hope your story will help to give people across the game the strength and encouragement to be their true self.”