Professional footballer Jake Daniels is hopeful that coming out earlier this year will help “push the community to get where it should be”.
The 17-year-old, who is a forward for Blackpool FC, made history in May as Britain’s first active openly gay male professional footballer.
“Football was going so well, I didn’t want anything to go the opposite way,” Daniels told British Vogue of deciding to share his true self with the world. “I was scared.”
He further explained that he came out in his family WhatsApp group a few days after discussing his sexuality with his mother, which came as a result of his club’s welfare manager informing her that Daniels had shared that he wasn’t feeling himself.
“They were amazing,” he said of their response. “They already knew.”
Daniels continued: “My mum was like, ‘Just make sure you don’t regret anything in the future,’ and I’ve not regretted anything. It’s been the best thing.”
His coming out also made him the first male footballer to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu did so in October 1990.
“I want to push the community to get where it should be, especially in football and all sport,” Daniels added. “When I did get my Instagram back and I saw some of the messages, it was people’s mums saying, ‘You’ve made my son come out.’ That’s an impact I wanted to have.”
— Jake Daniels (@Jake_Daniels11) October 11, 2022
Discussing the lack of role models he had growing up, he said: “I feel like they just want to make the best out of their career, which is why I think a lot of people do it when they’ve retired.
“But I don’t think they should do that, because if you retire at 40 you just lied for 40 years of your life.”
Daniels also took a moment to reflect on the impact his coming out has had.
“I’ve been inspirational,” he stated, lowering his voice as he did so, “but that’s not the label I should have. That’s just my life.”
He also shared his feelings on this year’s World Cup taking place in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTQ+ people are routinely subjected to discrimination and harassment.
“I know [some] people wanted to boycott it, which would have been good, but the World Cup’s massive,” Daniels explained. “If you’re comfortable to go and do it, you do it.”
Despite this, he acknowledged that he “wouldn’t” feel safe playing in Qatar: “It would frustrate me, because why am I trying to hide my personal life for other people? Like, I’m going to play football for you and you can’t respect how I want to be, so it’s just not what I want to do.”
See the full feature in the December issue of British Vogue available via digital download and on newsstands today.