Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels becomes first active openly gay professional player in Britain
Blackpool Football Club player Jake Daniels has become the first active male professional to come out as openly gay in Britain in three decades.
The 17-year-old made the announcement on Sky News and says he wanted to do so to "break the stigma".
He said he had been hiding who he really is and "now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself."
In a statement with Blackpool Football Club, Jake said: "I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.
"There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality.
"I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in."
Daniels, who has scored 30 goals for Blackpool's under-19s squad this season, signed a professional contract with the club in February.
Speaking to Sky News on coming out, he said: "For a long time I've thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer.
"I asked myself if I should wait until I've retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.
"However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.
"Since I've come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental health.
"Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally."
Daniels says his teammates and family have "embraced" the news and supported his decision to open up and tell people.
It is not just footballers who have shown their support for Jake, celebrities have also celebrated his courage, including Eddie Izzard who said: "I salute you, Jake"
Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity, said: “To come out publicly as the UK’s first openly gay professional footballer in nearly 30 years takes incredible courage, and we’re heartened by the solidarity and support he has received from Blackpool FC and his team-mates.
“Football is ready for this moment and we believe it has been for some time.
"Our Rainbow Laces campaign has taught us that, while there is still a way to go, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in sport are changing."
The Professional Footballers’ Association also added: “We are extremely proud of Jake and have been working with him and his club. He has the complete support of everyone at the PFA.”