The North Carolina Courage is a professional women’s soccer team based in Cary, North Carolina. Founded in 2017, it is part of the National Women’s Soccer League Franchise and maintains a sizable lesbian fan base.

The NWSL has been welcoming to LGBTQ+ team members and fans since its inception in 2012.That’s why a number of people in the community were left scratching their heads when news broke that former player Jaelene Daniels had been rehired. 

Referred to by many as a homophobe, Daniels created a stir in 2017 when she declined to wear a rainbow themed jersey for gay pride month, citing religious beliefs as justification. The jerseys, which were worn by every member of the team (except Daniels), were later auctioned off to benefit an LGBTQ rights non-profit group.

After overwhelming response from sports fans in the LGBTQ community, the Courage issued the following statement:

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 team. 

With that, the discussion around the club supporting Pride initiatives was paramount, considering the importance it holds for us and for so many others. As team leadership has detailed in discussions with our players, and as we reinforce here today, players will be supported in expressing pride in who they are and will continue to wear their Pride number with confidence and honor. 

We actively support Head Coach Sean Nahas’ clear mission: To make sure Courage players have a voice and feel empowered to be who they are, without fear of judgment.

Jaelene and organization leadership have a productive conversation about the expectations we have set for our entire team, in and out of the locker room, and she will continue to uphold the Courage’s standards of respect and inclusion without reservation. 

Many of you have asked what we, as an organization, are going to do to remedy the harm. Here is our immediate plan:

Continue to host and enhance Pride games celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community, especially our fans and players.

Continue to outfit players in custom-made Pride jerseys.

Continue to participate in local Pride events, parades and festivals. 

Continue to produce Pride x Courage merchandise with proceeds going to local LGBTQIA+ groups.

Continue to fully support our Athlete Ally ambassadors on both the Courage and NCFC sides.

We will actively facilitate additional diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives alongside supporters and community members to improve our club culture. 

We will amplify organizations that bring awareness to LGBTQIA+ causes. 

We will identify volunteer opportunities to support LGBTQIA+ initiatives.

We will welcome ideas from our Courage community who will help hold us to account.

We recognize we have a responsibility to our soccer community to maintain a space built around inclusion, equity and diversity, and we know we have work to do to once again prove the North Carolina Courage stands with the LGBTQIA+ community.”

At press time, no additional statements from The Courage were forthcoming, and it is not known yet if the overall negative reaction from fans of the team could lead to a reversal and Daniel’s removal,

Daniels, however, has definitely felt the heat. She posted a response of her own on her Twitter page a short time later, insisting her feelings 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,” she wrote “I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them, and love them. Over the course of the season, I look forward to meeting, speaking and growing with more of you – the fans – as this club continues to become one of the best in the world on and off the field.”

David Aaron Moore

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...