The Peach State prepares for a political frenzy as a pair of January runoffs determine the balance of the Senate—and the shape of the presidency
It’s somewhat fitting that Jaelene Hinkle plays for a professional soccer team called the Courage.
She’s needed courage in standing firm in her Christian convictions involving the month-long LGBT celebration known as “Pride.”
Hinkle, a defender for the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League, made headlines in June 2017 when she turned down a coveted call-up to the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT). Hinkle cited “personal reasons” for declining to represent her country in two international “friendlies”—essentially, glorified exhibition matches—in Scandinavia. However, many in the media speculated that her decision had to do with the team’s Pride-themed jerseys, which featured rainbow-colored numbers on the back.
The speculation stemmed largely from a tweet that Hinkle sent out in 2015 after the Supreme Court forced states to recognize same-sex marriage: “The world is falling farther and farther away from God,” Hinkle wrote.
Hinkle remained silent about the reasons behind her decision for roughly a year—and team representatives declined requests from WORLD to interview her, citing Hinkle’s desire not to inflame fans who might misinterpret her words as hateful.
In late May, however, The 700 Club televised an interview in which Hinkle admitted that the Pride-themed jerseys were the reason why, after prayerful consideration, she declined to join the national team: “I felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle said.
The interview aired just before the Courage’s late May road match against Portland Thorns FC—the first of many Pride-themed matches that Hinkle would play in over the next several weeks. In a manner befitting the name of the team they support, Thorns fans responded to Hinkle’s comments by being a pain in her side: They booed whenever the ball came near Hinkle and angrily waved LGBT Pride flags in her direction. One fan even brought to the match a red placard with the words “Personal Reasons” spelled out in rainbow-colored letters.
Although Hinkle had never disparaged LGBT individuals, LGBT fans still condemned her: “It doesn’t matter how nice you are in person to the gay people in your life,” Katelyn Best wrote for the Portland soccer website Stumptown Footy. “What matters is that you’ve chosen to stand so staunchly in the conviction that there’s something wrong with them, with this thing that they cannot change about themselves, that you’d pass up the chance to play for your country for it. … You cannot hate the sin and love the sinner when the ‘sin’ is an integral part of a person’s being.”
Fans of Portland’s Pacific Northwest rival, Seattle Reign FC, were surprisingly more subdued when Hinkle came to town for the Reign’s Pride Day on June 23: If any fans in the largely rainbow-clad crowd of 4,032 booed her at all, the loud, persistent drumming from the Reign’s supporting pep band, the Queen City Corps, drowned them out. When Hinkle mingled with fans after the match, nobody confronted her. Most fans in LGBT-themed clothing had already left.
Hinkle had appeared for the USWNT in eight matches before her 2017 call-up but has not received another invitation since. The USWNT’s coach, Jill Ellis, is openly lesbian.
“If I never get another national team call-up again, then that’s just a part of [God’s] plan and that’s OK,” Hinkle told The 700 Club. “Maybe this is why I was meant to play soccer, to show other believers to be obedient.”