Author: Sam Lear, Proud Robins
This is a day that I thought might never come.
Jake Daniels, a midfielder at Championship club Blackpool, has become the UK’s only openly gay active male professional footballer, and the first since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
For millions of LGBTQ+ people in this country, it is no exaggeration to suggest that this might be a game changing day.
It is hard not to be in awe of the courage of this 17 year old man at the very beginning of his career. He has grown up in a world where there are no visible role models in the industry where he wants to pave his way.
For many before him, the lack of representation was a barrier – football was not a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ people. To the contrary, many young people have grown up watching football with a soundtrack of homophobic abuse from the terraces and have either put up with it to fit in, or abandoned football altogether.
Not being your full and true self is one of the most difficult weights to carry. Coming out is never easy even with the most comfortable of surroundings. Society expects you to be straight. Not only does being LGBTQ+ make you a member of a minority group, you are often made to feel that way. Coming out is not something that heterosexual people have ever had to do – for many LGBTQ+ people, it is genuinely one of the most nerve-wracking moments of their life, where you have no idea how that conversation might fundamentally change your relationships with those you love, and even those you don’t – there is no going back. However, there is often an overwhelming and indescribable feeling of relief when that burden is lifted.
It is true to say that society has come a long way over the last decade, with a defining turning point occurring when same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014. Football has also made great strides in the right direction, but it has lagged so far behind. There are very few industries where you will find no openly LGTBQ+ people. I hope that Jake will be the first of many, and that football catches up with the rest of progressive society at long last.
Today is an opportunity for all of us. By supporting Jake, we can show that all the awareness campaigns and initiatives meant something – that football truly is for everyone. I hope that all players, coaches and supporters appreciate the responsibility they hold. How the footballing world reacts to this story will have profound consequences either way.
Good luck Jake – you have my full support – you have immediately become a hero for so many people. How I could have done with a role model like you when I was growing up...
Some reading this might be thinking ‘so what?’, ‘why should this matter?’, ‘why is this news?’. How we dream for the day when this is the case. However, this is a seismic landmark that will change many lives for the better. At last, there is representation, validation and acceptance.