Let’s cut to the chase! Absolute respect to the bravery and resilience of our very own Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels. The 17-year-old has become the first openly gay male professional footballer in the UK, receiving widespread support in his decision to be open about his sexuality and we are bursting with pride that he is from Blackpool.
The 17-year-old told Sky Sports News: “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.”
Not since the late Justin Fashanu has any male player come out while currently in the game. Ex-Aston Villa and Everton star, Thomas Hitzlsperger, announced he was gay after he retired from playing.
The fact that a male footballer’s sexuality (unless they are heterosexual) still makes headlines in 2022 is something that shows that work is still to be done. But back to the positives; Jake’s resilience and bravery has now surely blazed the path for other professionals in tricky environments to be comfortable with, and proud of, who they are.
As Boingboingers we live an ethos of resilience and many of us live just down the road from where Jake works. Evidence about resilience from countless studies and lived experience is illustrated in our Resilience Framework and our organising principle is to change the odds as well as beating the odds for people living in challenging circumstances. How exciting that Jake himself has changed the odds for so many young footballers with his announcement and we commend him for that.
Resilience can evidence itself in so many ways. From simply getting up in the morning when hiding under the duvet would be the easier, safer and warmer option, to a nation led by an inspirational leader determined to defend their country against larger oppressors, the very word exists in us all and is demonstrated in ways many don’t realise.
International resilience research has demonstrated that resilient behaviour is not just an individual quality, Jake may have found it possible to make his announcement because of the support of his family, friends and colleagues. Changes to how LGBTQI issues are reported in the media, laws against discrimination, the stance taken by Blackpool FC, changing the story about different identities – all of these things may have helped him to choose this moment to come out. In turn this may make it easier for other male gay, bisexual or trans footballers. That is why the Boingboing community and Blackpool Headstart work to challenge systems which make resilient behaviour so hard.
Jake has given us a very fine example of resilience. He is in the public eye and is part of a profession still largely entrenched in the ideal of its male stars living and behaving in a certain way. Yet he has the courage to speak freely about who he is even though it may not fit the ideas of previous, incorrect values of what a professional footballer should be.
And quite fitting that his team should be Blackpool FC. The town where many of us Boingboingers live or work is often maligned and looked down upon. Listen up, our the seaside resort often has been a haven to those who live as part of minority groups as has Brighton where many others of us live. Although, like anywhere, in Blackpool, as in Brighton, there is still work to be done.
Boingboing fights injustice, beats the odds and provides support to those who feel marginalised, have no voice, or are victims of an unfair system. While significant societal strides have been made with regards to the rights of the LGBTQI community, the fight against discrimination and injustice continues.
But the bravery of Jake Daniels feels like a seismic shift.
And all at Boingboing are right behind this brave young man to be who he is. A professional footballer, a gay man and hopefully, like us, proud to be from Blackpool.