Daniels: Henderson to Saudi a ‘slap in the face’

Sports

Jake Daniels, English football’s only openly gay professional male footballer, has described Jordan Henderson‘s move to Saudi Arabia as a “slap in the face” after the midfielder’s previous work advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.

Daniels, a forward for Blackpool in England’s League One, spoke to the BBC about Henderson’s transfer, noting the former Liverpool player sent him a message of support when he came out in May 2022.

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“He was backing me and said: ‘We’re proud of what you’ve done,'” Daniels said.

“Seeing him move to Saudi, it kind of like, slaps me in my face really.

“But I guess the money pays well, and money must mean more to people.”

Homosexuality is criminalised in Saudi Arabia, while human rights organisation Amnesty International have described the Gulf nation’s human rights record as “appalling.”

Henderson was roundly criticised for his £13 million ($16.3m) move to Al Ettifaq, where he plays under former teammate Steven Gerrard, with England manager Gareth Southgate saying the disapproval was “understandable.”

In an interview with The Athletic addressing the criticism from September, Henderson said he too could understand the “frustration” and “anger” among the LGBTQ+ community in the wake of his move.

“All I can say around that is that I’m sorry that they feel like that,” the 33-year-old added.

“My intention was never, ever to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities where I felt like they had asked for my help.

“When I was making the decision, the way that I tried to look at it was I felt as though, by myself not going, we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar. But then nothing’s going to happen. Nothing’s going to change.”

Daniels said the decision to come out was “the best thing I’ve ever done” and that he is playing “better” as a result.

The 18-year-old added he hopes to see more players in England come out, particularly at the highest level.

“I’d like to see another top-flight footballer come out as gay,” he said.

Premier League players obviously have so much more pressure on them and so many more eyes on them, but I just feel that to have more footballers come out would be the start of it.”

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