Women’s soccer team The North Carolina Courage announced October 17 they had decided against renewing the option for Jaelene Daniels to play in the 2023 season.
The team posted on Twitter that day the following: “The courage have declined a team option on defender Jaelene Daniels for the 2023 season, making her an unrestricted free agent. The club wishes Jaelene the best in her future endeavors.”
There’s no question that Daniels was a skilled and seasoned player, however her long history of anti-LGBTQ sentiments and habits for displaying her philosophical beliefs on her sleeve likely set the path for the decision to kick her to the curb for a potential second season.
Indeed, her feelings about the LGBTQ community became abundantly clear when she posted a political opinion on Twitter, apparently justified by her religious beliefs.
On June 26, 2015, after Marriage Equality was established in all 50 states, Daniels took to Twitter and posted the following: “This world is falling farther and farther away from God… All that can be done by believers is to continue to pray.”
In May 2018, shortly after she announced her decision to not wear the U.S. team jersey honoring LGBTQ Pride, Daniels was booed several times by Portland Thorns fans during a National Women’s Soccer League match with the Courage.
In a career that had already lasted nearly a decade, Daniels announced her retirement from the North Carolina Courage November 4, 2020.
Just over a year later on December 19, 2021 she was rehired by the North Carolina Courage with a year-long contract and an option to renew for the following year. The decision was met with an abundance of criticism from fans, with many saying they would not be renewing theit season tickets.
Team management was quick to release an announcement defending their actions.
“In response to the recent news of re-signing Jaelene Daniels, we as a club acknowledge the impact this announcement has on our community. 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 community.”
Barely seven months after her rehire, on July 29, 2022, she declined to play in the Courage’s “Pride Night” match against the Washington Spirit, refusing to wear a Pride flag-themed jersey. Once again, a statement was released: “While we’re disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself.”
More negative response from fans was quick to follow, and some even said they would not attend any future games as long as she was a member of the team. Her actions then and response from fans are likely what led to the decision not to renew her option for another season.
With Daniels’s possibility of a second season now off the table, it’s unclear what future path her career in Women’s Soccer might be. Some sports writers have suggested that it may lay in the European market, however explaining her anti-LGBTQ sentiments to fellow players and audiences there could prove to be even more difficult.