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Out and proud: Jack Daniels kick-starts normalisation of male LGBTQ+ footballers by coming out as gay, but there’s a long way to go

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1 min read
Jack Daniels kick-starts normalisation of male LGBTQ+ footballers by coming out as gay, but there’s a long way to go

“I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.”

With these words, Blackpool Football Club’s 17-year-old forward Jake Daniels has revealed his sexuality to the world, and in doing so, he has already become one of the most influential athletes of his generation.

There aren’t enough superlatives to articulate the extent of bravery it must have taken for Daniels to make this decision, that too at the very beginning of his career. After all, there’s a reason there haven’t been any openly gay male footballers in the UK in over three decades; there are very few of them across the world at all.

Unlike its female counterpart, men’s football is plagued by homophobia and biphobia to its very core. Troubled by the prospect of having to endure abuses and vile chants their entire lives, players have for long chosen to live closeted, lead a life of lies and refrain from simply being who they truly are. Even in retirement, very few footballers have chosen to come out and try to foster an environment that would encourage people of the LGBTQ+ community to live openly.

It hasn’t been easy, however. Societal discriminations percolate into sporting communities, as is their wont. Matters of abuse on racial, communal and religious grounds have only recently become subjects of import, and even slower is the rate at which changes take effect. It is no surprise, therefore, that having openly gay male footballers in the game is almost unheard of, let alone being something that should have long been normalised.

It has been coming, though. Change has been coming. Closeted male footballers have waited long, too long for someone to open into the footballing community a gate that would allow both participants and onlookers to embrace the game proudly and openly. Initial signs could be seen last year when Australian footballer Josh Cavallo came out as gay. Now that Jake Daniels has chosen to trailblaze this belated movement, there can be no doubt that more people will follow, in support and in participation, to bring about a change that has been waiting on the sideline to be subbed on and modernise the beautiful game.  

It won’t be easy, though. It was never going to be easy. Daniels knows well and truly that he will be subjected to homophobic abuse. But he won’t be alone, because he has opened the gate now, and people are eager to come in.

There is still a long, long way to go. But the first steps have been taken. 

It starts right here. It starts with Jake Daniels.  

Read the full message from Daniels released by Blackpool FC here

Watch Daniels’ interview with Sky Sports here.

Anshuman Joshi is a senior writer at SportsKhabri with special focus towards all things football. His other interests include languages, world history and some good fiction.

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