North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels missed her team’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) 3-3 draw against the Washington Spirit on Friday after refusing to wear a Pride jersey, the Courage have confirmed.
Daniels previously refused a U.S. women’s national team call-up in 2017 over rainbow-themed gay pride jerseys.
Friday’s game took place as part of the Courage’s Pride Night celebrations and also featured a pregame Pride festival in partnership with Harmony: NC LGBT+ Allied Chamber of Commerce and the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
“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 to media before the game.
“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.”
The Courage faced criticism from supporters last December when they re-signed Daniels, who retired last year after playing seven seasons in the NWSL.
“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 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.
“The decision to re-sign Jaelene was not made lightly and included significant conversations between organization 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, who has yet to comment on her absence from Friday’s game, also released her own letter in December, writing that her love for her Courage teammates “has never been based on their identity.”
“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.”