Twenty-nine-year-old Jaelene Daniels, a defender for the North Carolina Courage soccer team, was sidelined July 29 for refusing to wear a rainbow-colored gay pride jersey during a game against the Washington Spirit.
“Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey,” a Courage spokeswoman said in a statement provided to the Raleigh-based news outlet WRAL just hours before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“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.”
This is not the first time Daniels has refused to wear an LGBTQ pride-themed jersey. A devout Christian, Daniels turned down a U.S. women’s national team call-up in 2017 after it was announced that both the men’s and women’s national teams would be wearing rainbow jerseys for LGBTQ pride month.
“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” she told “The 700 Club” in a May 2018 interview. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what [God] was asking me to do in this situation.”
Daniels retired in 2020 at age 27, but re-signed with the Courage Dec. 19. The one-year deal has an additional one-year option in 2023.
Yet in an unusual move, the Courage essentially apologized a few days later for re-hiring Daniels.
“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 team said in an unsigned open letter to fans at the time. “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.
In a statement of her own, Daniels addressed the controversy on her Instagram page.
“My love for each of these women is rooted in who they are as a person—I believe everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, beliefs and abilities is worthy of dignity, value and love,” she posted on Dec. 22. “They make me a better person, a better player and a better teammate. My beliefs may call me to live differently, but my love runs deep for all.
“… 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 added. “I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them and love them.”
Edward Graham, youngest son of Franklin Graham and vice president of operations at Samaritan’s Purse, applauded Daniels for her boldness.
“Good for Jaelene Daniels for standing firm in her Christian faith, knowing consequences of her decision(s),” he tweeted July 30. “She is a great example of being unashamed of her faith. Funny she plays for the NC Courage, she has it, the program’s leaders lack it.”
Photo: Marty Jean-Louis/Alamy