Words: Emily Maskell; Images: Eddie Blagborough (left) and Alamy
Tom Daley has praised Jake Daniels for the Blackpool FC footballer's "incredibly brave" decision to come out publicly.
Last week (16 May), 17-year-old Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels told the sporting world he was gay, making him the first professional men’s footballer in the British game to come out in the 21st century.
Daniels has been the recipient of a wave of praise following his coming out and British diver Tom Daley, whose "courage and determination" Daniels' cited as inspiration for his decision to come out publicly, has been the latest to applaud the footballer.
In an interview with Daily Beast Tom Daley, 28, hailed Daniels’ bravery as “incredible.”
Daley notes that “the culture of football doesn’t seem like such a safe space to come out,” making Daniels’ announcement all the more impactful.
"I think about what it means for any queer young kids growing up thinking now, 'Maybe I do now have a space in football. Maybe I will get in. Maybe I will be welcomed,'” Daley said.
The diver added: “It's not just that the queer community has been so celebratory of it, but the fact of seeing people like [English national team captain] Harry Kane speaking out about how amazing it is.”
Daley stated the fact that “straight footballers at the top of the game are commending him” marks an important step for visibility and inclusivity in the sport.
Daley, who came out in 2013 and now has a son with husband Dustin Lance Black, points out the impact Daniels will have on football culture will exceed Blackpool Football Club: "It takes a shift in culture from the top down, where the heads of organisations and governing bodies are creating that accepting and open culture, because if it doesn't start there, it's never going to change."
Daniels is the first male professional in British football to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990, who was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.
Speaking about the fact the FIFA 2022 World Cup is being held in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, Daley says: “For the longest time, I said such countries should be banned from holding events, but that just closes the door on them growing.”
“Just creating that visibility in those countries is so incredibly important. That goes for gender equality, racism, and disability too. Sport should be the most inclusive place for everyone, not just straight white cisgender men.”