*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
17-year-old soccer player for Blackpool Football Club Jake Daniels has come out as gay.
While a few people knew, Daniels wanted to ensure he was able to tell his story himself, so he worked with Sky Sports News and his team to get his story out there in his own words.
Daniels said he considered waiting to come out until after he retired.
But he decided that wasn’t a great option.
“I asked myself if I should wait until I've retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.”
“However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.”
Daniels also said growing up, he felt very pressured to be straight, a task he carried out by getting girlfriends when he was in school. But it didn’t work and he would get questioned on his sexuality.
While it can be difficult coming out, Daniels says the feeling is freeing and helps his mental state.
“I told my mum and my sister. The day after we played Accrington and I scored four, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders it was and a massive relief.”
His announcement has been met with plenty of support.
Daniels coming out is a big deal.
He’s the first active professional player in the United Kingdom to do so since 1990.
At that time, Justin Fashanu tried to come out while playing professionally. His reception was much more mixed.
Fashanu was hounded by a homophobic press and regularly bullied for his sexuality.
He tragically ended up committing suicide in 1998.
The threat of what happened to Fashanu set soccer back, with players fearing coming out.
Thomas Hitslzperger came out in 2014 only after he had retired from the premier league the year before.
Today is a different story—this time, Daniels is seeing plenty of vocal support.
As part of his announcement, Daniel’s team Blackpool FC worked with Stonewall—an LGBTQ+ organization—to support him.
They also released a statement saying they are proud of the young player.
Several other organizations, including the Professional Footballers Association and the Premier League released statements in support of Daniels.
Let’s just hope that continues and translates into protection when needed.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—William and Kate—offered their support as well.
Sky Sport News worked closely with Daniels to ensure he had the opportunity to tell the world who he is on his terms. Reporter Tim Thornton met with Daniels and his mother and built a roadmap to sharing this news.
In the end, Daniels chose to do this to help protect others, and encourage them to share their own truth.
And maybe a prominent public figure will help with both those things.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
- TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
- TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
- TrevorText — Text “START” to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
- TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
- Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel