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The United States women’s national team’s won the World Cup last week, thrusting the team into the media spotlight. That extra attention has also brought up some past contraversies.
An old video of Jaelene Hinkle speaking with The 700 Club is causing current team members to sound off. In 2017, the team announced that it would be wearing special jerseys with rainbow numbers in honor of LGBTQ Pride month. Hinkle, a Christian, felt torn between her beliefs and the game. After praying for three days, she ultimately decided that she did not want to wear the jersey and stepped away from the team.
“I just felt so convinced in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” she told the 700 Club. “I knew in my spirit I was doing the right thing. I knew I was being obedient. If I never get another national team call-up again then that’s just a part of His plan, and that’s okay. Maybe this is why I was meant to play soccer, to show other believers to be obedient.”
Many believe that her choice to step down from the team hurt her future career. A year after the jersey incident, Hinkle was again called to play for the national team. Three days into training, she was let go for “footballing reasons.” Some believe the vague reasoning was to prevent Hinkle from fighting back.
Coach Jill Ellis, who is gay along with several of the star players, has faced many questions regarding her choice of cutting the player.
“She [Hinkle] is the best left back in the league this year, of that there’s absolutely no question,” club manager and head coach of the North Carolina Courage, Paul Riley said to SB Nation. “She hasn’t had a bad game to be honest with you, I can’t recall a bad game all season. At this level, that’s unbelievable. The consistency is something she never really had, but this year she’s had it.”
Fans have called Hinkle openly homophobic, and have waved pride flags in stands while booing her at games.
USWNT forward Jessica McDonald stood up for the Christian player. “She’s never said anything bad about me. She never said anything bad about anybody,” she told The Oregonian. “So, for people to pass on that kind of judgment on another human being, I think it’s sort of uncalled for.”
U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris sounded off on Twitter, however, when this video resurfaced last week.
“Hinkle, our team is about inclusion. Your religion was never the problem. The problem is your intolerance and you are homophobic. You don’t belong in a sport that aims to unite and bring people together. You would never fit into our pack or what this team stands for,” Harris wrote.
“Don’t you dare say our team is ‘not a welcoming place for Christians,’” Harris continued on social media. “You weren’t around long enough to know what this team stood for. This is actually an insult to the Christians on our team. S[h]ame on you.”
The team has both high-profile Christians and LGBTQ members alike. Players also knelt in prayer circles before and after each 2019 World Cup game.