Jaelene Hinkle’s decision not to play for the U.S. women’s national soccer team last summer was, she said, a simple one. Because of her religious beliefs, and a decision by U.S. Soccer to highlight LGBTQ pride month with special jerseys during their June 2017 friendlies, Hinkle declined a call-up from the team, something she said she had dreamed about her entire life.
“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle said in an interview with “The 700 Club,” a Christian talk show, that was published this week. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what He was asking me to do in this situation. … I’m essentially giving up the one dream little girls dream about their entire life and I’m saying no to it. … I think there’s where the peace trumps the disappointment. I knew in my spirit I was doing the right thing. I knew I was being obedient.”
Hinkle, a defender who turned 25 on Monday, has made eight appearances for the national team, but has not received another call-up since declining to join the team last summer. She is playing for the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League; during a game Wednesday night against the Portland Thorns in Oregon, fans booed Hinkle, while some waved pride flags. One fan carried a sign with the words “personal reasons” — the reason publicly cited when Hinkle declined the call-up last year — in rainbow letters. Hinkle did not speak after the match, but teammate Jessica McDonald expressed support for her.
“She is high on her faith, and in my honest [opinion] that’s absolutely incredible,” McDonald said, according to the Associated Press. “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. Everyone has their opinions about the Bible and God. It’s obviously not in my control what she thinks.
“At the end of the day, I’m still going to be friends with her. We have no problems with each other. She’s never said anything bad about me. She never said anything bad about anybody. So, for people to pass on that kind of judgment on another human being, I think it’s sort of uncalled for. She’s got her opinions. That’s fine. Everybody does. It hasn’t affected our team at all.”
Several high-profile women’s soccer stars, such as Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach, are openly gay, and the sport has reached out in recent years to its LGBTQ fans. Paul Riley, who coaches the Courage, said he heard the boos Wednesday, and that he supports his player.
“She’s got a good heart, and she battled through the game. It’s not an easy thing for her,” Riley said, according to the AP. “I give her a lot of credit, to be perfectly honest. Whatever her beliefs are, whatever she believes in, that’s her. It doesn’t affect the team. It doesn’t seem to affect anybody on the team.”
And if Hinkle never gets a national team call-up again? “That’s just part of His plan and that’s okay,” she told The 700 Club. “Maybe this is why you were meant to play soccer, just to show the believers to be obedient.”
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