NWSL team cuts ties with player who refused to play on Pride Night

The North Carolina Courage announced they have declined their 2023 option on defender Jaelene Daniels, ending her time with the team.

Daniels was a controversial signing for the Courage in the offseason, with the club being forced to apologize for bringing her back to the team after a brief retirement.

“We are very sorry to all those we have hurt, especially those within the LGBTQIA+ community,” the Courage said in December.

At issue was Daniels previously refusing to play for the U.S. national team when they wore rainbow-colored numbers for Pride Month, a decision she attributed to her Christian faith.

Daniels made the same decision for the Courage’s Pride Night this summer, generating a new round of controversy among the team’s fanbase.

The Courage were put on the defensive as fan discontent simmered over the 29-year-old’s continuing presence on the roster. Some fans believed the Courage’s declining attendance was at least partly due to the club’s decision to bring back Daniels — though there were a number of other factors at play, including the team losing a host of established stars in the offseason.

But Merritt Mathias, one of the Courage’s veteran leaders, openly questioned the club’s decisions and hinted that she agreed with fans who opted to stay away because of Daniels.

Daniels was a regular contributor to the Courage during her return to the team, playing in 19 of the club’s 22 regular-season games while making eight starts.

“The club wishes Jaelene the best in her future endeavors,” the Courage said in a statement.

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