North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels was sidelined for the team’s Friday soccer game after refusing to wear an LGBT “pride-themed” jersey.
Daniels, an open Christian, made headlines in 2017 when she chose to withdraw from the U.S. Soccer team just two weeks after it was announced that both the men’s and women’s teams would be wearing rainbow jerseys for LGBT pride month, The Daily Wire noted.
“Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey,” a Courage spokesman said before the game, according to The Washington Post.
“While we’re disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself,” the statement continued. “We’re excited to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players and staff tonight and look forward to hosting our first ever Pride Festival before kickoff.”
Courage Coach Sean Nahas gushed about how “powerful” wearing the pride-themed jerseys is to the team.
“What we have to remember is, it’s the second time that they’ve worn those jerseys and I know how powerful it was for them, and how much it means for them,” Nahas said, according to the Post. “And my number one thing was nothing is going to come in between that, because that’s important to them and that means something to them, and I stood by that.”
Daniels, whose maiden name is Hinkle, was re-signed to the Courage last year. In a bizarre open letter to fans, the team apologized to the “LGBTQIA+ community” for re-signing the soccer star.
“In response to the recent news of re-signing Jaelene Daniels, we as a club acknowledge the impact this announcement has on our community,” the open letter said, ESPN reported. “We’ve spent the past few days reading your messages and reflecting on our actions. We are very sorry to all those we have hurt, especially those within the LGBTQIA+ community.”
“The decision to re-sign Jaelene was not made lightly and included significant conversations between organization leadership and Jaelene,” the letter added. “The priority expressed in those conversations is the safety of our players and maintaining an inclusive, respectful space for the entire team.”
Daniels posted her own response on her Twitter account, emphasizing that she loves all people, regardless of “belief system or sexuality.”
“My love for each of these women is rooted in who they are as a person — I believe everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, beliefs or abilities is worthy of dignity, value and love. They make me a better person, a better player, and a better teammate,” Daniels said.
“I remain committed to my faith and my desire for people to know that my love for them isn’t based on their belief system or sexuality,” she continued. “I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them, and love them.”