LONDON (AP) — Prince William expressed hope Tuesday that more soccer players will have the confidence to be open about their sexuality after Jake Daniels became the first active player in the English men’s professional game to announce he is gay.
The 17-year-old forward is just starting out in his career after making his first-team debut earlier this month for Blackpool, a northwest English team that plays in the second-division Championship.
Prince William, who is president of the English Football Association, said he hopes the sport is showing it is “a game for everyone” with the landmark announced by Daniels.
“What Jake has done takes courage and will hopefully help break down barriers that have no place in our society,” William, the second-in-line to the British throne, wrote on the Kensington Palace Twitter account. “I hope his decision to speak openly gives others the confidence to do the same.”
A week before the announcement, Daniels signed sponsorship terms with Adidas.
“We applaud Jake’s decision and know it will be an inspiration to others in the world of football and beyond and we are proud to have a partnership with him,” the sportswear firm said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Jake is a footballer with huge potential, who displays courage on and off the pitch, and has a bright future ahead of him.”
Daniels’ announcement was the biggest of its kind in men’s soccer in England since Justin Fashanu in 1990, though the former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker was not active in the professional leagues at the time. Fashanu was found hanged in a London garage eight years later.
Games in England are sometimes still blighted by homophobia among fans. Julian Knight, the chairman of the House of Commons committee overseeing sports policy, hopes such abuse will be made a criminal offense.
“Jake’s brave act can now act as a watershed moment for those in charge of the game,” said Knight, a legislator with the ruling Conservative Party, “and provide a new catalyst for driving out the prejudice faced by LGBT people on the pitch and in the stands.”
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