Personal Reasons

Abigail Gerken - USWNT/mlsfemale
Official USWNT Reporter

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken22

June 2017, The USWNT is preparing for games against Norway and Sweden. These matches are important, as they are set to play two prominent teams. They are also celebrating LGBTQ pride month by wearing jerseys with the pride flag inspired, rainbow numbers.

The USWNT has members of the team who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community like captain Megan Rapinoe and coach Jill Ellis. Additionally, multiple players also use their platform to speak about political issues (as was apparent this summer with Megan Rapinoe).

Jaelene Hinkle, who plays left-back for the North Carolina Courage, was invited to play in these games. However, she declined the invitation to participate. When asked by the media her reason behind declining to represent her country, Hinkle simply stated ‘personal reasons’.

Later on, Hinkle started opening up about her faith and her decision to decline the invite. “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle, told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) “The 700 Club” in a June 2018 interview. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what [God] was asking me to do in this situation.”

This did not sit over well with many women’s soccer fans. The women’s soccer fanbase is infamously an accepting and inviting community, especially for the LGBTQ community. There are multiple open couples on NWSL teams, such as Kristie Mewis (Sam Mewis’s older sister) and Rachel Daly (England NT) for the Houston Dash, and two-time World Cup champions Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger for the Orlando Pride.

After Hinkle did not attend the World Cup with her former teammates, writer Obianuju Ekeocha tweeted a clip of Hinkle’s 2018 CBN interview, and implied that the USWNT is not a welcoming place for Christians.

Immediately, the women’s soccer community fired back, claiming that it was false and that there are multiple outspoken Christians on the team such as stars Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz. 

In a July 15th tweet, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, 33, wrote:

I asked women’s soccer fan @janecampbell for a statement about Hinkle’s comments and how it impacts the fan culture of the NWSL: 

“…Her blind intolerance of the LBGTQ community is just so outdated in a league that is relatively progressive that it’s almost kind of funny. A lot of fans I know are members of the LGBTQ community, some are Christian, and some are both, so her intolerance is just rooted in hate, not religion, as she claims. Which brings me to a concern of mine, is that she doesn’t realize the gravity of her words. She has a decent amount of fame, so her words reach people and as peacefully as she tries to act when she speaks intolerance of the LGBTQ community, her words are dangerous…” 

Many NWSL fans decided to rally together and show their support for the LGBTQ community and their distaste for Hinkle’s comments through the power of two-poles. The idea started with a fan who decided to make a two-pole containing the phrase “personal reasons” in the pride flag colors, with the background showing the color of their local club. On Twitter, this movement spread to other clubs. In this Chicago Red Stars supporter group tweet, you see that there are also two-poles based in Portland, Orlando, and Chicago. 

The intent of this movement to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ community and to make it so Hinkle has to play in a stadium with the two-poles every game, reminding her of the impact she has on the culture of the NWSL. 

Hinkle stays true to her word and rooted in her faith. The pinned tweet on her Twitter account includes the quote “ If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection”. 

Featured image: @ChicagoLocal134

Follow and chat with me here: @abigailgerken22

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