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EAST LANCASHIRE actor, Sir Ian McKellen, has praised Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels after he came out as gay on Monday.
The Burnley-born actor and prominent LGBT campaigner said Daniels represents a generation which “rejects old-fashioned homophobia” in football and hailed him as a "hero".
Other celebrities and local football clubs have also been vocal about the 17-year-old striker's announcement, which he made on Monday.
It makes Jake first Briton in the men’s professional game to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
In a statement, the 17-year-old Blackpool forward said: "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."
Burnley-born actor, Sir Ian McKellen, said he and many others “admire and treasure” the player for taking this step.
Sir Ian, who came out as gay in 1988, said: "At 17, Jake represents a generation that rejects old-fashioned homophobia in football and elsewhere: those who haven’t yet grown up as he has.
“He sets an example. No wonder so many of us, gay and everyone else, admire and treasure him as a hero. What a goal he's scored!”
Thousands of people have since liked and retweeted Ian’s tweet, commenting their own messages of support for the player.
One person said: " ‘Why is this even news!?’ – a quote from my 11-year-old daughter this morning after hearing this on the radio.”
Another said: “It is sad that today in UK football, or any other field of endeavour, that this should be an issue.
“He's a footballer and should simply be able to be himself.
“With that said, well done to him. I hope that we can start simply start accepting people for who they are in the future!”
Lancashire football clubs also commented on Daniels' announcement, including Blackburn Rovers.
💙 Thank you for your courage @Jake_Daniels11. A message that will inspire so many.
𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲!
— Blackburn Rovers (@Rovers) May 16, 2022
They said: “Thank you for your courage, Jake. A message that will inspire so many. Football is for everyone!"
A spokesperson for Preston North End said: “Preston North End commend the courage shown by Jake Daniels, we hope his bravery is an inspiration for others to feel they are able to follow in his footsteps. Football is a game for all.”
Accrington Stanley also applauded Daniels' announcement, after he revealed Stanley were on the receiving end of a beating from him the day after he came out to his mother and sister, when he scored four against them.
Other celebrities from across the country have also shown their support.
Former England player, Gary Lineker, said: “It’s been a brilliant season for you on the pitch, and now through your bravery, off the pitch too.
“I’m sure you’ll receive huge love and support from the football community and many others will follow your path. Good luck to you.
“I honestly think that, aside from a few homophobic morons, football will be incredibly welcoming and enormously supportive towards a gay footballer.
“It’s long overdue for a player to ‘come out’ even though it’s ridiculous that it’s even necessary. A footballer is a footballer.”
Comedian, Matt Lucas, said: “It's a landmark day in British LGBT history. Brilliant, brave
@Jake_Daniels11- a professional Championship footballer with Blackpool FC - has come out.
“Huge respect to you, Jake, and to your club and teammates for supporting you.”