North Carolina Courage linebacker Jaylin Daniels opted out of playing Friday night as the team celebrated Pride Night and wore jerseys to support the LGBTQ community.
The Courage played to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Daniels previously refused to play in a Pride jersey for the US Women’s National Team in 2017. She later told a Christian television program that she chose not to wear the T-shirt because of her beliefs.
The Courage originally planned a Pride celebration in June, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
“Jelyn will not be on the roster tonight as she has made the decision not to wear a Pride jersey. While we are disappointed in her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself,” a team official said before the game in a statement provided to WRAL in Raleigh.
Coach Shawn Hajas said after the game against the Spirit that he wanted to make sure LGBTQ players on the team were celebrated and that Daniels’ decision wasn’t a distraction.
“What we have to remember is that they put on these jerseys for the second time and I know how strong it was for them and how much it means to them. And my number one thing was that nothing was going to come in between because it’s important to them and it means something to them, and I stuck to that,” Nahas said.
A Courage fan group, Uproar, urged fans to go to the game and celebrate the players despite Daniels’ decision.
When Daniels signed with the Courage this season, some in the community criticized her ability to support LGBTQ teammates. She previously played for the team in 2017-2020.
“I remain committed to my faith and I want people to know that my love for them is not based on their belief system or sexuality,” she said in a statement after the signing. “I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I appreciate, respect and love them.”
29-year-old Daniels played eight matches for the national team. She helped the Courage win the NWSL title in 2018 and 2019 before stepping down due to the birth of her daughter.