Entertainment figures including Matt Lucas, Eddie Izzard and Roman Kemp have supported Jake Daniels, after he became the first pro footballer to come out as gay in 32 years.
“I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself,” the 17-year-old said in a statement on Monday 16 May.
The Blackpool FC forward is the first male professional player in the UK to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu took his own life eight years later, aged 37, having suffered a fierce backlash from football fans. The fear of similar abuse has been cited as the reason behind a lack of players coming out since.
“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it,” Daniels told Sky Sports. “I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.”
Daniels was inundated with praise for his decision to come out, as he revealed that telling family, friends and his teammates had lifted a weight off his shoulders.
“It’s a landmark day in British LGBT history,” comedian and writer Matt Lucas tweeted. “Brilliant, brave Jake Daniels – a professional championship footballer with Blackpool FC – has come out. Huge respect to you, Jake, and to your club and teammates for supporting you.”
“Let’s support Jake Daniels – the character and courage it takes to be the only male footballer currently playing in a top football club to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990 – who was the first and suffered terribly for it,” Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo said. “Surely we’ve moved on?”
“Huge love to Jake Daniels. What a guy!” radio presenter Roman Kemp tweeted, while TV host Piers Morgan said, “Well done.”
“I salute you, Jake,” Eddie Izzard said, linking to a report on the news of Daniels coming out.
His club Blackpool said: “Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on-and-off the pitch.
“It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”