North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels refused to play for her club as they celebrated Pride Night on Friday. The Courage and Washington Spirit recorded a 3-3 draw in National Women’s Soccer League action with the match being followed by the inaugural Pride Festival, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community.
The Courage wore rainbow-themed jerseys for Friday’s match.
“Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey,” a Courage spokeswoman told Yahoo Sports before the match. “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.”
Daniels has yet to publicly comment on her decision.
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In 2018, Daniels, who is a Christian, said she, “felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear” a Pride jersey for the United States women’s national team, explaining her decision to turn down a call to play for the USWNT during friendlies in the summer of 2017. Her USWNT teammate, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris even called her “homophobic,” as a result, and said “You don’t belong in a sport that aims to unite and bring people together.”
Daniels briefly retired from the sport in 2020 at just 27 years old, but eventually returned to re-sign with the Courage last December. The Uproar, which is a Courage supporters group, tabbed the signing “unacceptable.”
“We as a club acknowledge the impact this announcement has on our community,” the Courage said in a statement responding to The Uproar’s comments. “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.”
“I believe everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, beliefs or abilities is worth of dignity, value and love,” Daniels wrote after re-signing with the team “My beliefs may call me to live differently, but my love runs deep for all.”
The Courage have struggled out of the gate this season and sit in last place in the NWSL, though with only ten games played while many other teams are at the 13 or 14 match mark, they have plenty of room to make up for lost time as the season hits the back half of its 22 game schedule. Daniels had played in all nine of the Courage’s matches, until Friday night’s draw with the Spirit, featuring as the team’s first choice left back. She recorded no goals or assists while taking three shots and creating five chances.