Since writing an article on the LGBTQ+ community within football, in February 2021, two professional male footballers have come out to join the LGBTQ+ community.
The first of these was Australian national Josh Cavallo, who came out in late 2021. Cavallo gave an interview to Sky Sports revealing that it was “phenomenal” to get a weight off of his chest as he was living a “double life”.
The most recent of these players is 17-year-old Blackpool midfielder Jake Daniels. This means that Cavallo is no longer the only currently active male gay footballer. With this, Daniels becomes the UK’s first active footballer to come out as gay, whilst under the public eye, in 30 years. Many have stepped forward to support the young Championship player as this is a huge moment within English football.
Manchester City forward, Jack Grealish, told Sky News: “I think it’s absolutely brilliant and a massive step forward.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, Daniels explained that he wants people to know the real him. Similar to Cavallo he does not want to keep lying to himself, especially now that he has accepted himself.
In the past Daniels said he has had girlfirends to show that he ‘belongs’ on a football pitch along with the other straight footballers, as he was told that he would grow out of this ‘phase’.
Throughout his footballing career he thought there was a need to hide his sexuality. He considered “waiting til [he] had retired to come out” but this would be “such a long time of lying.”
Personally, the news gave me hope and joy. Why, as a female in the football community? Simple, because it shows that no one is alone. You can be male, female, non-binary, gay or straight. There are any football fans who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, including myself, and they look up to these public figures. Having football as a straight, male sport is no longer the true representation - it is about inclusivity. Anyone can be a football fan!
When having found out this news, a close friend reached out to me with the following texts: “I’m just so so so so happy. Can’t describe to you. As a gay man that has loved football all my life - incredible news! This representation is so important going forward.”
There are no words in this article that can be put together that are equal or even close to those of my friend. You can see how important this representation is for gay men in the football world.
Another beuatifully said supportive message was from award-winning actor Sir Ian McKellen, who co-founded the Stonewall chairty, who has called Daniels a “hero” continuing that “[a]t 17, Jake Daniels 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.”
Stonewall have also written on Twitter to show their support: “We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world.” followed by their partners Kick It Out, who hope to kick homophobia out of football: “It shouldn’t have to be brave but it is.”
McKellen, as part of his Stonewall Foundation, participates in the Rainbow Laces (#RainbowLaces) campaign. The aim of this campaign is to gain acceptance of anyone’s sexuality and/or gender within football. Cavallo and Daniels have both shown that football is moving in the right direction as this time last year there were no almost no openly gay, male pro footballers in the world.