North Carolina Corridge defender Jaylene Daniels will not compete in Friday’s Pride Knight game after refusing to wear the club’s Pride jersey.
In a statement to local television station WRAL, the team said the defender would not be on the shortlist for the match against Washington Spirit at Wikipedia Soccer Park because she refused to wear the jersey. Daniels previously declined a call-up to the US women’s national team in 2017 because she did not want to wear the Pride shirt.
“Gillen will not be included in tonight’s list because she made the decision not to wear our Pride shirt. While we are disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision herself,” North Carolina State Director of Communications Nikki Stodt said in a statement to WRAL. Excited to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players and staff tonight, and we look forward to hosting our first-ever Pride Festival before kick-off.
Daniels re-signed with Courage in December 2021 after retiring from professional football in 2020. The 29-year-old competed with North Carolina in 2017, 2018, and 2019, helping Courage in two NWSL championships.
Her 2021 signing with the team led to a backlash, and Courage issued an apology to her fan base several days after the signing was announced.
“In response to the recent news about the re-contracting of Jaylene Daniels, we as a club are acknowledging the impact this announcement has had on our community,” North Carolina Courage said in a statement. “We have spent the past few days reading your messages and reflecting on our actions. We are deeply sorry for all those we have hurt, especially those from the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The decision to re-sign Jilin was not taken lightly and involved important conversations between the organization’s leadership and Jilin. The priority expressed in those talks is the safety of our players and maintaining a respectful and inclusive space for the entire team.”
Daniels also posted a file statement Her December release in response to fan criticism of her return to North Carolina.
“I remain committed to my belief and desire for people to know that my love for them does not depend on their belief system or their sexuality,” Daniels said. “I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, and I respect and love them.”
The defender’s presence on the bravery list has remained a topic of debate all season, with teammate Merritt Mathias commenting on Daniels’ return in May.
“There was a very special voice being heard in wanting to support the community. Personally, I don’t think we’ve done a great job on this in the past years,” Matthias said. “I don’t think that was a secret. We haven’t had a pride night for three years, and we haven’t worn a shirt. Everyone knows all these things and I think bringing two generations back (Daniels) was a decision the club made and as a player who is part of the community you have to work through those struggles but that’s what the team is all about.”