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Jake Daniels has been described as "inspirational" and "brave" after coming out as the UK's only openly gay active male professional footballer. The 17-year-old Blackpool forward revealed his news through a statement via his club on Monday afternoon, saying: "Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story."
Gary Neville, former Manchester United defender and Sky Sports pundit, said: "What he has just done takes incredible courage. I can't imagine how difficult that has been.
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) May 16, 2022
"All I would say is it's a day of great importance for Jake and his family, but also for English football. It will go down in history. It is a big, big moment for football. The game has not dealt with this issue well at all. "We know that now it is something that is acceptable from a fan point of view, but it's not yet got into the dressing room. A dressing room can be an evil place…you think about the initiation ceremonies you go through, the peer pressure and vulnerability you have. "The way in which Jake spoke was absolutely incredible."
Before Daniels, the UK's only male professional footballer to have come out as gay while still playing was former Norwich and Nottingham Forest forward Fashanu, in 1990. Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo became the first current openly gay player after coming out last year.
Blackpool forward Jake Daniels speaks exclusively to @SkySportsNews on becoming the UK's first male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu.
Read more: https://t.co/ZzGEehYrB6 pic.twitter.com/Kk3bTdrfnp
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 16, 2022
Former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out after his career ended, while ex-Leeds defender Robbie Rogers revealed he was gay in 2013 after leaving Elland Road. Kick It Out's chief executive Tony Burnett added: "The bravery Jake has shown today will hopefully go some way to showing that men's football is becoming an environment in which LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and comfortable to be their authentic selves. "We now have a renewed responsibility to him and the LGBTQ+ community at large to work with all clubs and stakeholders to ensure that he receives the right support now, and that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that he can continue on his footballing journey like any other 17-year-old. "This is a big story, and an historic day in English football, but we need to remember that there is a young man at the heart of it. A young man who should not have to be defined by this one moment, or this one part of his identity. "We wish Jake a long and successful career in football. He has our full and unwavering support."
Massive respect for this brave decision. Let's all help create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people in football and beyond! 👏🏽 https://t.co/KUpCaYPap7
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) May 16, 2022
The Football Association said Daniels was "an inspiration to us all", adding "We fully support your decision to be open about this part of yourself. Football is a game for all, with diversity at its heart, and this is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of. "We are with you and we hope your story will help to give people across the game the strength and encouragement to be their true self." Daniels was full of praise for Blackpool and his team-mates at the Championship club. "Blackpool have been absolutely amazing too. I am with them every day and I felt safe. My team-mates have all been so supportive about it and everyone has had my back," he said.
Football should be a game for all and one where you can be yourself.
Following the statement from Jake Daniels today, here is some help and advice from Stonewall about coming out as an LGBTQ+ young person. https://t.co/HplpBcofwv
— England Football (@EnglandFootball) May 16, 2022
"They've been asking tons of questions, they have all been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It's the best thing I could have asked for. Of course, everyone was kind of shocked in a way and they were asking why I didn't tell them earlier. "That was a great reaction because it showed how much they cared. The captain was one of the main people I told and he also asked me loads of questions. In the end he just said, 'I'm just so proud of you'. It meant so much. "I just want to get it all out and for people to hear my story."
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