_Nc Courage Defender

Last Updated 2 weeks Ago

North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels, who declined to play for the U.S. national team in a Pride Month jersey, is now refusing to play for her club on Pride Night.

The Courage meets the Washington Spirit on Friday night in the National Women’s Soccer League and will stage an inaugural pre-match Pride Festival, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. They’ll also wear rainbow-themed jerseys.

“Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has decided to not wear our Pride jersey,” a Courage spokesman said in a statement hours before the 7:30 p.m. opener.

Jaelene Daniels

“While we’re disappointed with her choice, we recognize her freedom to make that decision for herself,” the statement added. “We’re pleased to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players, and staff tonight and look forward to having our first ever Pride Festival before kickoff.”

Daniels (née Hinkle) has not yet addressed her decision.

In 2018, a year after turning down the USWNT call-up, she explained that, as a devoted Christian, she “felt so convicted in my soul that it wasn’t my job to wear” the Pride jersey. To LGBTQ+ fans and fellow athletes, her message and ideals were clear.

Daniels retired in 2020 at age 27 but came out of retirement in December. The Courage got flak when they re-signed her, and apologized to their supporters.

“We as a club realize the impact this announcement has on our community,” the team said in a statement responding to the outrage. “We’ve spent the past several days reading your notes and meditating on our actions. We are deeply sorry to all those we have wounded, especially those within the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Daniels obliquely addressed the criticism in a statement of her own. She wrote in part, “I believe everyone, regardless of gender, race, views, or abilities, deserves dignity, value, and love.” “My beliefs may require me to live differently, but my love for everyone is profound.”

She ended, “I look forward to meeting, interacting with, and growing with more of you – the supporters — as this club continues to be one of the finest in the world on and off the field.”

She has participated in all nine of Courage’s 2022 games, starting six times and coming off the bench three times. However, the team has struggled (2-5-2) and the club’s environment has deteriorated.

“The fan support has waned,” Merritt Mathias, a Courage defender since 2018, said in May. “And there are reasons for that. There are reasons why people aren’t here and haven’t chosen to invest their money or beliefs, and that is their choice.”

After encouraging fans to “come back” and support the club, she admitted that the community itself had not felt supported by the club by saying, “I am a part of the community that has suffered with some of the decisions that this club has made.”

“I don’t believe this has been a secret,” added Mathias. “We didn’t have Pride Night for three years, and we didn’t wear jerseys. Everyone is aware of these facts, and I believe the choice to re-sign Jaelene Daniels was taken by the club. As a player who is also a member of the community, you must work through these difficulties, but that is what a team is for. You must be able to accept individuals of diverse religions, ideologies, and backgrounds.”