When 17-year-old Jake Daniels became the first pro soccer player in England to come out as gay in 32 years last week, the support he received from the soccer establishment showed there is a high level of acceptance. And the absence of negative feedback showed times are changing.
Daniels acknowledged in an Instagram post this weekend feeling both overwhelmed and grateful for the support he received.
I’ve taken some time away these past few days to digest everything that’s happened and collate my thoughts.
I’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages of love and support I’ve received. It’s been incredibly touching.
I just want to say a massive thank you to @blackpoolfc for everything over the past few months - you have been incredible.
To my family and friends for giving me the strength to continue to move forward in my life. I owe you so much.
To @skysports_tim for giving me the confidence to be me — your understanding and sensitivity throughout all of our time together was immense.
To @billybingham03 and @astrapartnersfootball for their guidance throughout —you’ve been amazing to me and my family.
And a big thank you to @terrygeorge for his generosity and for looking after me for the last few days.
I wake up this morning proud of what I’ve done, but even more proud to be part of such a welcoming and supportive community.
Together we can end the stigma and move football forwards
Daniels plays for Blackpool in the English Football League, one rung below the English Premier League. He made his first team debut and scored 30 goals for the youth team, signaling a bright future. I was struck by the public support shown for Daniels by Blackpool captain Chris Maxwell:
“From coaching Jake a few times last season and sharing a dressing room and pitch with him, he’s a bright, honest young man with bags of potential. He has performed really well this season and he is always willing to learn and develop,” Maxwell said.
“Jake’s announcement on Monday has publicly shown his character and how brave such a young man can be. It’s testament to him as a person. He should be so proud of the bravery and courage he has shown, which will no doubt inspire and encourage others.
“As for here at the Club, we want to make sure that Jake has an environment where he can thrive both on and off the pitch.”
Note that Maxwell said he “shared a dressing room with him,” since the alleged fear of sharing a shower together with a gay player has been a talking point about athletes coming out forever.
Daniels’ week ended with Norwich City of the English Premier League honoring him by wearing a rainbow T-shirt with his face on it during warmups before their season finale:
Not many 17-year-olds playing soccer hear from Harry Kane, Prince William, Tom Daley and an entire EPL team. It will be fascinating to follow Daniels’ journey and see what a difference he will make in the sport.