The boos came before the match started.
During Wednesday evening’s National Women’s Soccer League match between the North Carolina Courge and the Portland Thorns, many in a crowd of 15,018 booed Courage defender Jaelene Hinkle as she was announced in the starting lineup and nearly every time she possessed the ball.
The jeers came after a revelation Wednesday morning.
A year ago, Hinkle, a devout Christian, was called up to the U.S. women’s national team for two June friendlies, but declined the offer.
This week, she revealed in an interview with the 700 Club that she opted not to play in the matches because she did not feel comfortable wearing the U.S. jerseys, which honored LGBTQ Pride Month with rainbow colors. At the time, some speculated that the jerseys were a factor, but Hinkle cited only “personal reasons.”
In Wedneday’s interview, Hinkle said: “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey. And I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what He was asking me to do in this situation.”
Many supporters of the NWSL — a league with a significant number of openly gay players — have opposed Hinkle’s decision.
At Providence Park in Portland, many fans held up signs reacting to the news. One sign read, “Personal Reasons” in rainbow lettering.
After the Courage’s 4-1 victory over the Thorns on Wednesday, Hinkle declined to comment.
Courage coach Paul Riley said he did not speak to Hinkle about the matter and insisted her stance had made no impact on the team.
“When I heard the crowd booing, I was like, ‘That’s strange. I assume it’s part of that,’” he said, referencing the 700 Club interview.
Courage forward Crystal Dunn claimed that she was largely unaware of the situation, but forward Jessica McDonald defended Hinkle.
“She is high on her faith and in my honest opinion, I think that’s absolutely incredible. If she’s for God, then that’s fine, that’s great if that’s what keeps her going in her life and keeps positivity in her life, then let that be,” McDonald said. “Everyone has their opinions about the Bible and God and it’s obviously not in my control what she thinks and, at the end of the day, I’m still gonna be friends with her.”
She continued: “We have no problems with each other. She never said anything bad about me. She never said anything bad about anybody, at the end of the day. And so, for people to pass on that kind of judgment on another human being, I think it’s just sort of uncalled for.”
After the news broke, many on social media rushed to attack or defend Hinkle. Some cited her behavior as homophobic, others applauded her for standing up for her beliefs.
In the 700 Club interview, Hinkle indicated that playing for the U.S. women’s national team had been a dream of hers, but that if she never gets another chance to do so: “That’s just part of His plan and that’s okay.”