I can’t even fathom how much bravery this must have taken …
Before we get onto what Jake Daniels has done and the impact it could have, it’s worth remembering the setting in which his words echo.
Football has never been an environment conducive to expressing oneself.
And I’m referring to expressions away from having a ball at your feet.
Due to the public’s incessant admiration and interest in football players, there’s been this blur between ‘what the public could be interested in’ and what’s ‘in the public interest’.
Slight change of words, but a massive difference nonetheless.
Regardless of how much we may want to pry into one’s private life – because it might be ‘interesting’. Unless it is criminal or otherwise something that the public ought to be made aware of as a matter of actual concern. Then the matter should stay private.
Unless the matter is brought up by the player themselves and made public for a reason that they deem justifiable in the circumstance.
Unfortunately, a player’s sexuality has always been a topic of debate.
Whether it’s David Beckham wearing ‘questionable’ outfits, or even when a player comes out after they’ve retired, there’s this stupid air of mysticism surrounding the idea of a player being gay in such a male dominated environment.
‘How will other players feel showering next to a gay man?’
‘How will the public react to knowing they’re cheering a gay player?’
All genuine questions I’ve seen and heard for myself.
‘Stupid’ doesn’t even begin to describe people who think like this. Dated, bigoted and pathetic are much more apt forms of descriptions, if you ask me.
Something Jake Daniels knows all too well and was keen to address.
Prior to his interview, the precedent wasn’t kind. Scratch that, it was nigh-on terrifying.
The only other topflight professional footballer in the UK to come out before Jake Daniels was Nottingham Forest’s Justin Fashanu who, as has been publicly documented since, endured a fiery reaction from the media and his peers.
Justin Fashanu’s story ended in heartbreak and disgrace.
He committed suicide in 1998 – dying at the age of only 37.
Of course, the world has grown far more tolerable of what we now consider perfectly normal ways of life, and in the age of social media (and everyone’s opinion taking on a similar value if backed), the press aren’t as wicked about their judgement.
But even then, the precedent elicited a dangerous and outrageous reaction, and it couldn’t have been easy for anybody to come out after stories like Fashanu’s.
Jake Daniels saw the bigger picture.
And we’re mightily glad that he did.
Even while writing this a good couple of weeks after the interview went live on Sky Sports, I’m still overcome with just how impressed I am with this story.
Not just wish the way in which Jake Daniels has chosen to express himself.
But for the selfless reason for why he’s done it. I’m also really happy for him as to how well everything was received by the wider footballing community.
“I would not have been able to do that in my mid-twenties or late-twenties. What he has just done took incredible courage. We have been in dressing rooms for many, many years and that would seem like the unthinkable to announce that you are gay. I can’t imagine how difficult that has been.”Gary Neville (Sky Sports) after the Jake Daniels interview (May, 2022)
I really hope that this is a catalyst for more footballers to feel comfortable with who they are.
Which doesn’t necessarily translate into more gay players coming forward to share their stories, but for anybody who finds themselves conflicted with a personal worry that they feel won’t be accepted. Only to find out, that that’s not the case.
Well done, Jake Daniels – seriously, well done.