game changer

Soccer star Jake Daniels’ coming out inspired legions of fans—and earned royal praise

This profile is part of Queerty’s 2022 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 11.

Name: Jake Daniels, 17

Bio: When English soccer player Jake Daniels decided to come out at the start of his professional career, it deservedly made headlines around the world. Daniels was born in 2005 in Bispham, near Blackpool, northern England. He showed promise as a soccer player as a child. He was snapped up for the under-18s squad of the EDFL-Championship side, Blackpool FC, in 2020 then went on to be the youth team player of the season for 2020–21. In February, he signed a professional contract with the club.

Coming out: Daniels decided to come out publicly just three months after signing his contract. He gave an interview to Sky News, saying, “Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.”

“I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it’s been a long time that I have been living with the lie.”

He continued, “At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine. But as you get older you realize you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.”

Daniels instantly became the only player in the English football leagues to come out as gay. He was also the first to do so since the late Justin Fashanu over 30 years ago.

When Fashanu came out in 1990, he was hounded by the press and faced abuse from fans on the terraces. He died by suicide in 1998. It’s not hard to imagine that Fashanu’s experience dissuaded others from coming out… until the arrival of Daniels.

Much has changed in the UK in the past 30 years, and Daniels’s announcement was met with a wave of support. This included celebrities such as Ian McKellen, Elton John, and the country’s then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who tweeted, “Thank you for your bravery Jake, it would have taken huge courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch.”

Prince William, who is also President of the UK’s Football Association, said, “Football should be a game for everyone. What Jake has done takes courage and will hopefully help break down barriers that have no place in our society. I hope his decision to speak openly gives others the confidence to do the same.”

Daniels said he expected some backlash, but it didn’t bother him.

“Of course, I am aware that there will be a reaction to this and some of it will be homophobic, maybe in a stadium and on social media. It’s an easy thing for people to target. The way I see it is that I am playing football and they are shouting stuff at me, but they are paying to watch me play football and I am living my life and making money from it. So shout what you want, it’s not going to make a difference.”

What happened afterward: The people of Daniel’s hometown, Blackpool, showed the young player their pride in him. The blue-collar coastal resort in Lancashire is famed for its Blackpool Tower. Erected in 1894, it’s like a mini Eiffel Tower. After Daniels came out, authorities said the tower would be lit in alternating rainbow colors and orange light for several days. Tangerine is the official color of Blackpool FC’s players’ jerseys.

Daniels has gone on to inspire at least one other player in the UK. Zander Murray, a striker with Scottish team Gala Fairydean Rovers, came out in September and credited the Blackpool youth star as one of his sporting inspirations.