Jake Daniels, a forward for English Football League team Blackpool and the first openly gay active British male professional footballer since Justin Fashanu in 1990, expressed his disappointment at Jordan Henderson’s move to play in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal.
Henderson, a former captain of Liverpool and a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, joined Saudi club Al-Ettifaq in the summer, leading some to criticize his decision as turning his back on the LGBTQ+ community.
Daniels, who received support from Henderson when he came out, shared his feelings with the BBC radio, stating, “He messaged me when I came out. He was backing me and said: ‘We’re proud of what you’ve done.’ And seeing him move to Saudi, it kind of slaps me in my face really. Obviously, it was frustrating. But I guess the money pays well, and money must mean more to people.”
Despite the frustration, Daniels acknowledged the financial aspect that may have influenced Henderson’s move. The former Liverpool and England midfielder’s decision raised questions about prioritizing money over supporting LGBTQ+ rights.
Steven Gerrard, Henderson’s former teammate, and current manager in the Saudi Pro League, had personally reached out to Daniels after he came out. However, Daniels expressed his frustration, saying, “I met him in person, and he said: ‘If you ever want to get in contact then message me.’ But he moved over (to Saudi Arabia). It was frustrating.”
Daniels, who made his senior debut for Blackpool in May 2022, also voiced concerns about the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals in countries where homosexuality is illegal, referencing the recent World Cup in Qatar. With Saudi Arabia as the sole bidder for the 2034 men’s World Cup, Daniels stated, “The World Cup that happened in Qatar, the one that is going to happen in Saudi Arabia, for me, if I was there, I wouldn’t feel safe, so that’s just putting your football in jeopardy.”
View this post on Instagram
Mr Gay Pride Australia Dion Alexander, who has campaigned on eliminating homophobia in sport, has come out in support of Daniels.
“It is unfortunate to see the continuation of countries sportswashing human rights abuses,” Alexander said. “You can understand these athletes taking the extra money after all it is their job and usually it is significantly more money than what they would be earning in their home country.”
Alexander, who recently was placed second runner-up at Mr Gay World said Daniels is right to be disappointed.
“If these athletes were then actively advocating and making sure all athletes were afforded the same opportunities you would be more empathetic to their move to Saudi Arabia.
“We are not seeing that play out and we are seeing money continue to be used as a tool to distract the world away from the basic human rights violations in these countries,” Alexander concluded.
Despite the challenges, Daniels believes that coming out 18 months ago has positively impacted his career. Reflecting on his experience, he said, “Coming out was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m playing better now.” The reception and support he received have made the journey worthwhile, emphasizing the positive influence of visibility and openness in professional sports.
Last Updated on Nov 25, 2023