As professional sports embrace the LGBTQ movement’s quest for unmitigated acceptance, Christian athletes increasingly face the possibility of choosing between their livelihoods and their faith.
That possibility recently became reality.
As her team was about to play the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit on July 30, defender Jaelene Daniels (pictured above right) from the North Carolina Courage refused to wear a jersey with her team’s crest and jersey numerals repurposed to the “rainbow” theme celebrating LGBTQ “pride.” The game would culminate the club’s “Pride Festival,” designed to “celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players and staff,” a team release stated.
Coach Sean Nahas responded by choosing not to place Daniels on the roster of eligible players for the game. Until that point, Daniels had played in all nine of the Courage’s matches, starting six.
“Jaeline will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our Pride jersey,” said a team statement. “While we’re disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself.”
Nahas admitted he made the decision to appease his LGBTQ players.
“It’s the second time that they’ve worn those jerseys and I know how powerful it was for them, and how much it means for them,” Nahas said. “And my number-one thing was nothing is going to come in between that, because that’s important to them and that means something to them, and I stood by that.”
Daniels traversed this minefield before. In May 2017, as Jaeline Hinkle, she left the national team’s training camp two weeks after the United States Soccer Federation announced plans to have the women’s team wear rainbow jersey numerals in overseas exhibitions the following month, the LBGTQ’s “Pride Month.”
Before her decision, the defender played eight times for the United States. Since then, she has yet to represent her country.
Daniels’ choice to reject LGBTQ activism reflects her faith. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, she tweeted, “This world is falling farther and farther away from God… All that can be done by believers is to continue to pray.”
The defender elaborated on Instagram: “I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. It’s not a fictional book. It’s not a pick and choose what you want to believe. … My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. That through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ.”
Yet Daniels is not alone.
Two days earlier, seven professional rugby players from Australia chose not to play rather than wear a jersey featuring horizontal rainbow stripes and a rainbow collar. Their club, the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, became the first in Australia’s National Rugby League to use uniforms to express LGTBQ solidarity.
The seven players “are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs,” Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said before the match. “Their spirituality is a central part of their well-being. These young men are strong in their in their beliefs and convictions and we will give them the space and support they require.”
The players’ decision forced the Sea Eagles to field a patchwork lineup. As a result, the club lost a match that could cost a berth in postseason play.
On June 4, as the Tampa Bay Rays prepared for their own “Pride Night” against the Chicago White Sox, five pitchers chose not to wear adhesive patches depicting the Rays’ sunburst emblem in a rainbow motif or caps featuring the “TB” logo in similar fashion. Yet manager Kevin Cash kept none of them from playing. Two even pitched in relief.
Reliever Jason Adam, who leads Rays’ pitchers in appearances, was among those who chose not to wear the themed accessories. He explained why afterward.
“A lot of it comes down to faith,” Adam said. “So it’s a hard decision. Ultimately, we all said we want them to know that all are welcome and loved here.
“But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — we don’t want to encourage if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like he encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.
“It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
The tolerant, inclusive LGBTQ community and its allies were not amused.
“FACT CHECK: Jesus never said a word about homosexuality, but he did tell Tampa Rays pitcher Jason Adams (sic) not to be a judgmental, holier-than-thou (rectal opening),” tweeted Devin Green, an Internet comedian who mocks Christianity as the satirical character “Betty Bowers.”
“Honestly, I’m glad they took it off. These (rectal openings) don’t deserve to share in our beauty,” tweeted the gay editor Nico Lang, who contributes to Vice and the Canadian LGBTQ website Xtra Magazine.
But with “woke” ideology radicalizing women’s sports, Daniels confronts more sustained pressure. When the Courage re-signed her in December, fans became so outraged that the club apologized in a statement defending the move.
“We are very sorry to all those we have hurt, especially those within the LGBTQIA+ community,” the statement read. “We’ve spent the past few days reading your messages and reflecting on our actions.
“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.”
The statement included several initiatives to support the LGBTQ movement and “remedy the harm” Daniels’ signing represented. One was the commitment to rainbow-themed jerseys.
Daniels responded with a statement on Instagram that not only praised the club and her teammates, but also included the following:
“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. I pray and firmly believe my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them and love them. It’s an honor to know them, to play with them and to love them.”
It seems absurd that a player expressing such affection would constitute a threat to other players’ safety or to an atmosphere of mutual respect. But the tolerant, inclusive LGBTQ community and its allies will not countenance thoughtful opposition, personal reservations or even legitimate questions about societal consequences.
The message is clear: Conform or else.
Joseph Hippolito is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine. His commentaries have appeared in The Federalist, The Stream, Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post and National Post.