One of the most prominent players in the National Women's Soccer League declined to wear an LGBT Pride jersey Friday in a move that apparently was driven by her Christian faith.
North Carolina's Jaelene Daniels, an outspoken Christian, missed the Courage's game against the Washington Spirit after she declined to wear the jersey, according to a team statement. She is a defender. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.
The jerseys featured rainbow-colored numbers and were part of a Pride Night that featured a pre-game Pride Night festival. The Pride Night was a rescheduled event from a June Pride Night that was postponed due to Covid-19 protocols.
"Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey," the team said in a statement to WRAL. "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."
Just In: Courage defender who declined to wear gay pride jersey will sit out tonight's game https://t.co/3Hm0avPpSD— WRALSportsFan (@WRALSportsFan) July 29, 2022
It's not the first time Daniels has declined to wear an LGBT Pride jersey. In 2017, she skipped games with the U.S. women's national team because they wore Pride jerseys.
Her Twitter bio reads, "If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection." The bio includes a Bible verse, Colossians 3:23 ("Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord …).
Some Courage fans criticized the team last year for signing Daniels, pointing to her previous refusal to wear a Pride jersey. Daniels addressed the criticism in a statement.
"People come from all walks of life. Rich, poor, single, married, black, white, Christian, Muslim, straight and gay," Daniels said in the December statement. "Yet these labels do not keep us from loving others as we desire to be loved. And what better way to put such an idea on display than through sports? To have all of these people join together in one goal, one mission, on one field. That's what makes sports so incredible.
Sincerely, Jae 🤍 pic.twitter.com/LeF6Jq39hj— Jaelene Daniels (@jaelenedaniels) December 23, 2021
"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. I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them, and love them. I believe they know this because they know me, and I them. There is no place I'd rather be than with the Courage."
In 2018, she told CBN's The 700 Club that she felt led by God not to wear the Pride Jersey.
"I felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn't my job to wear this jersey," she said. "I gave myself three days to seek and pray and determine what He was asking me to do in the situation."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Meg Oliphant/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.