Every word Blackpool FC footballer Jake Daniels said during inspirational Sky Sports interview
Yesterday, Blackpool's Jake Daniels became the UK's first male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
The 17-year-old shared his story with Sky Sports, becoming only the second current male player in world football to come out as gay, following in the footsteps of Josh Cavallo, of Australian side Adelaide United.
Here’s the full transcript of Daniels’ interview:
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Why is now the right time to come out?
“It’s been such a long time of lying and I’ve processed and processed every day how I want to do it, when I want to do it and I think now is the right time.
“I feel like I’m ready to tell people about my story, I want people to know the real me. Lying all the time isn’t what I’ve wanted to do, it’s been a struggle but now I feel like I’m ready to be myself, to be free and to be confident with it all.”
When did you realise you were gay? And what impact did it have on your football?
“I can’t really put a date on it but I’d say maybe five or six, so it’s been quite a while.
“At that time you don’t really think about football and being gay doesn’t mix, so all throughout my life I kept thinking ‘it’ll be fine, you’ll get a girlfriend when you’re older and you’ll change’.
“When you get older you realise you can’t do that and it’s something you won’t be able to do.
“I had girlfriends in the past to make all my mates think I was straight, but it was just a massive cover up, so it’s been a struggle.
“In school, everyone used to ask me ‘are you sure you’re not gay?’ and I’d tell them I wasn’t, because I didn’t feel ready. But I don’t want to keep lying anymore.”
Did you feel like you had to hide who you were to become a professional?
“Yes, I think so.
“Because no-one else was out, I felt like I had to hide it and wait until I retired to come out, but I just knew that was such a long time of lying and not being able to have what I want.”
Has it impacted your mental health?
“Yes, it did impact my mental health. But it was just a short period of time of over-thinking and stress.
“A lot came into my mind at once but now it’s all gone and I’m confident and happy to be myself finally.”
How important have your family been?
“My Mum and my sister, I live with them and they said they already knew. They already had an idea of it.
“When I told my whole family, I was quite scared with some of the older generation because I didn’t know how they would react but everyone has been so supportive.
“I’ve had messages from here, there and everywhere from people saying they’re so proud, so it’s been amazing.
“The day I told my mum and my sister, the day afterwards we played Accrington and I scored four, so it just shows you what a massive weight off the shoulders it was.”
How much support have you had from the club?
“It’s been absolutely amazing.
“The club were the first people I told because that’s the environment I’m in every day and I feel safe.
“My teammates have been so supportive about it and they’ve all had my back. They’ve all been asking questions and are intrigued about what actually happened, so it’s been amazing. It’s the best thing I could have asked for.”
How did your teammates react?
“Everyone was kind of shocked in a way, because people were saying ‘why didn’t you tell us earlier?’ That was a good thing because it shows you they care.
“The captain (Michael Fitzgerald) was one of the first people I told and he kept asking lots of questions and said ‘I’m just so proud of you’.
“I like it when people ask questions, I wish they would keep asking more because I just want to get it all out and I want people to hear my story.
“Everyone has just been so supportive and so proud of me, so it just shows what a bond we have as a team. We’re like a family to each other.”
Did that reaction surprise you?
“I always over thought it and wondered if people were going to be supportive, because I didn’t know.
“I guess it was a bit of a shock but like I say, we’re all a family and if you don’t support then you’re not a true friend.
“But everyone has been so supportive, so it’s been amazing and all I can ask for.”
Has it impacted on your behaviour in the dressing room?
“Yes, a lot of the time. There’s definitely been a lot of conversations where I’ve been listening in to what they’ve been saying to work out if it’s the right time to come out and if I will get that support.”
You’ve signed a professional contract, you scored 30 goals this season, you’ve made your first-team debut and now you’ve decided to come out, how do you reflect on the last 12 months?
“It’s been crazy. Everything seems to have happened at once, but it feels right.
“I came into this year knowing I needed to smash it, I needed to prove myself and I think I have.
“I’m having such a good year but there was this one massive thing left in my head that I needed to come out. Now it’s out and people know, I can live my life how I want to.”
Why do you think there is this big taboo in professional male football about being gay?
“I think it comes down to a lot of footballers wanting to be known as masculine and being gay, people think you’re weak.
“A lot of people would say ‘you’re doing that because you’re gay’, which is not the case.
“It’s something you can get picked on a lot on the field, so not a lot of people want to do it.
“But because no-one has done it, no-one has the confidence to do it yet so I just want to be that role model to maybe push people to come out.”
You’re only 17 but you’ve got clarity in your mind, so do you feel like you can inspire others to come out?
“That’s what I’m hoping for. Because I’m younger I’m hoping they look at me and think I’m brave enough to do this then they can as well.
“I just want to do this for other people. Maybe if there are Premier League footballers who are gay and want to come out, I want someone to contact me and ask how it’s been, what has the reaction been like, I want to help other people.
“If a Premier League footballer does come out, that would be amazing and I’d feel like I’ve done my job and I’ve inspired someone.
“We shouldn’t be where we are right now.”
Are you worried about homophobia from fans and on social media?
“I think it’s an easy thing for people to target.
“If someone shouts at me from the stands when I’m on the pitch, well they’re paying to watch me play which is helping me live my life, so they can shout all they want because it’s not going to make a difference.
“I can’t stop people saying that stuff, so I just need to learn not to let it affect me.”
Could this make a difference for fans as well? Because there will be Blackpool fans who are gay and fans from other clubs, so does this help football become more inclusive for everyone?
“Definitely. It’s such a massive thing and there are many people out there who are gay, so just because I play for Blackpool doesn’t mean other people can’t support me.”
What’s your message to other people watching this that want to come out but are fearful?
“There’s a lot of different aspects for other people. It might scare them a lot and in football some people might think they’re going to get targeted a lot.
“I know it’s such a hard thing to do, because it was so hard for me, but if you are ready then speak to the closest people around you and start off telling a small group of people.
“If you do feel ready then make it bigger because you are going to get support.”