Elton John has led congratulations for Jake Daniels, who has become the first openly gay professional British footballer in over 30 years to come out while still playing.
Daniels, a 17-year-old player for Blackpool in England’s second-tier who signed his first professional contract this year, said that coming out has allowed him to be “free and confident”.
“Now is the right time to do it,” he told Sky Sports. “I feel like I am ready to tell people my story.”
He added: “Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, 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.
“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.”
In a tweet, music icon and gay rights activist Elton John praised Daniels’ statement, sending congratulations and calling it “a courageous and game-changing statement”.
“At seventeen, he has hopefully changed the face of football forever. Bravo.”
Others to praise Daniels in the wake of the news include Eddie Izzard, who wrote: “I salute you, Jake.”
Matt Lucas also commended Daniels, calling his statement “a landmark day in British LGBT history,” adding: “Brilliant, brave Jake Daniels – a professional championship footballer with Blackpool FC – has come out. Huge respect to you, Jake, and to your club and teammates for supporting you.”
In a statement announcing the news, Daniels’ club, Blackpool FC, said: “Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on-and-off the pitch.
“It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”
The last British footballer to come out as gay while still playing was Justin Fashanu in 1990.