Jaelene Daniels of North Carolina Courage. (Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels missed her team’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game because her team celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride.
On Friday (29 July), Daniels declined to play a match between Courage and Washington Spirit as she was required to wear a rainbow jersey.
The game took place as part of Courage’s Pride Night celebrations, originally scheduled for June to coincide with Pride Month but was postponed due to coronavirus protocols.
The festival was in partnership with two queer groups in Raleigh, North Carolina, the LGBT Center of Raleigh and Harmony: NC LGBT Allied Chamber of Commerce.
But a Courage spokesperson said in a statement to the media before the game: “Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey/
“While we’re disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself. 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.”
Daniels herself did not give a reason as to why she declined to play in the match, held at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
It wasn’t the first time Jaelene Daniels did this – she rejected a US women’s national call-up in 2017 over a rainbow-themed uniform.
She told Christian news network The 700 Club a year later she did so out of her Christian beliefs, having “felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear” the jersey.
USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris called her “homophobic” and “intolerant”, tweeting: “You don’t belong in a sport that aims to unite and bring people together.
“You would never fit into our pack or what this team stands for. Don’t you dare say our team is ‘not a welcoming place for Christians’.
“This is actually an insult to the Christians on our team,” Harris added, “[shame] on you.”
But criticism against Daniels was reignited when, following her retirement in 2020, Courage re-signed Daniels the following year.
“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 North Carolina Courage said in a letter to fans.
“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 organisation leadership and Jaelene. The priority expressed in those conversations is the safety of our players and maintaining an inclusive, respectful space for the entire team.”
Daniels vaguely responded to the backlash at the time, writing on Twitter: “I believe everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, beliefs or abilities is worthy of dignity, value and love.
“My beliefs may call me to live differently, but my love runs deep for all.”