Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has come out as gay – the first professional male footballer to do so since 1992.
The 17-year-old said that he is happy to finally ‘be myself’ in a heartfelt open letter to fans.
He is the first professional player in English football to come out since Justin Fashanu 32 years ago.
Jake, who signed his first professional deal with Blackpool in February, said that he has been ‘hiding the real me’ and hopes to be a role model for others.
He also said he has been inspired by the courage and determination of openly gay athletes in other fields, like Olympic diver Tom Daley and Australian footballer Josh Cavallo.
Jake revealed in an interview with Sky Sports: “For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. 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.
“Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental health.
“Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”
Jake Daniels’ open letter to Blackpool fans in full
This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my team-mates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup.
But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.
It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.
In reaching this point, I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my Club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly pro-active in putting my interests and welfare first. I have also confided in my team-mates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people.
I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.
There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in.
You being you, and being happy, is what matters most.
Featured image: Facebook, Official Blackpool FC / The Seasiders