North Carolina Courage defender Jillen Daniels, who refused to play for the US national team in a Prideshahr jersey, is now refusing to play for her club at Pride Knight.
Playing the Washington Spirit Friday night in the Women’s National Football League, The Courage will host the inaugural Pride Fest before the game, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. They will also wear rainbow T-shirts.
“Gillen will not be shortlisted tonight because she has made the decision not to wear our Pride shirt,” a Courage spokeswoman said in a statement hours before kick-off at 7:30 p.m.
“While we are disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make this decision herself,” the statement continued. “We are excited to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players and staff tonight and look forward to hosting our first-ever Pride Festival before kick-off.”
Daniels (née Henkel) has yet to explain her decision.
In 2018, a year after declining a USWNT subpoena, she said that, as a devout Christian, she “felt so condemned by my soul that it wasn’t my duty to wear” the Pride shirt. For LGBTQ+ fans and fellow gamers, her message and beliefs were clear.
Daniels retired in 2020 at the age of 27, but came out of retirement last December. The Courage received a backlash when they re-signed it, and apologized to their fans.
“We as a club acknowledge the impact this announcement has had on our community,” the club said in a statement in response to the protest. “We have spent the past few days reading your messages and reflecting on our actions. We are deeply sorry to all those we have hurt, especially those within the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Daniels obliquely addressed the criticism in a statement of her own. “I believe that everyone regardless of gender, race, beliefs or abilities deserves dignity, value, and love,” I wrote, in part. “My beliefs may call me to live differently, but my love is deep for all.”
“Over the course of this season, I look forward to meeting, speaking and growing with more of you – the fans – as this club continues to be one of the best teams in the world on and off the pitch.”
You’ve played in all nine of 2022’s bravery matches – six times at the start and three times off the bench. But the team (2-5-2) struggled, and the atmosphere around the club seemed to fade.
The “fans’ support has fluctuated,” said Meret Mathias, a brave defender since 2018, in May. “And there are reasons for that. And there are reasons why people aren’t here and they don’t want to spend their money or their beliefs, and that’s up to them.
“I am part of a community that has struggled with some of the choices this club has made.” After encouraging fans to “come back” and support the club, she admitted that the community itself did not feel support for the club.
“I don’t think that was a secret,” Matthias continued. “We haven’t had Pride Knight for three years, we haven’t worn a shirt. Everyone knows all these things, and I think giving back two generations [Daniels] It was a decision the club made and as a player who is part of the community you have to work through those difficulties, but that’s what the team is all about. You have to be able to embrace people from all different faiths, from all different opinions, from all different backgrounds.”