Christian soccer player Jaelene Hinkle pulled out of the U.S. Soccer friendly game against Sweden this past Thursday, citing personal reasons. Last month, U.S. Soccer announced that players would wear jerseys with rainbow numbers to celebrate LGBT “pride.” While Hinkle did not state the reason for her withdrawal, her public Twitter and Instagram profiles express her Christian faith and pushed back against the LGBT narrative, reclaiming the Christian meaning behind the rainbow and the phrase “love wins.”
“The rainbow was a covenant made between God and all his creation that never again would the world be flooded as it was when He destroyed the world during Noah’s time,” Hinkle, a defender with the North Carolina Courage, wrote on Instagram on June 26, 2015, the date the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. “Love won over 2,000 years ago when the greatest sacrifice of all time was made for ALL mankind.”
In that post, Hinkle directly addressed Obergefell, writing, “My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. that through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ.”
The announcement that Hinkle would not appear in the June 8 game in Gothenburg, Sweden, was buried in a U.S. Soccer press release on Tuesday. “Jaelene Hinkle withdrew due to personal reasons,” the release noted, in the middle of multiple reports about players unable to compete due to injuries and a new player added to the roster. (The U.S. beat Sweden 1-0.)
Last month, U.S. Soccer announced that “to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month, the USMNT [U.S. Men’s National Team] and USWNT [U.S. Women’s National Team] will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers.” Given Hinkle’s statements about the rainbow and about the Obergefell decision, it stands to reason that she did not want to participate in a game wearing a jersey with that message.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) May 26, 2017
After the U.S. Soccer announcement, PJ Media reached out, asking whether or not socially conservative players — like Jaelene Hinkle — would be able to opt out of wearing these jerseys. The federation did not respond to these requests, and Hinkle’s decision to drop out of the game “for personal reasons” seems to suggest that the answer is no. For Hinkle to avoid wearing an LGBT “pride” jersey, she would have to forfeit the opportunity to play soccer in Sweden.
Hinkle, a 24-year-old from Denver, Colo., was first called onto the national team in 2015 for the World Cup Victory Tour where she played against Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and China.
The soccer player is far from silent about her faith. Her Twitter profile references Colossians 3:23, which reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” On May 13, she published a blog post entitled “Even so,” quoting seven Bible passages including 2 Timothy 1:7 (“The Spirit God gave [me] does not make [me] timid, but gives [me] power, love and self-discipline.”) and John 6:35 (Jesus’ words saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”)
In another tweet, Hinkle declared her favorite things to be “faith, family, and soccer.”
Couldn't be more excited for this special event! Faith, family aaaaand soccer?! My three favorite things! ☺️ Hope to see you there! https://t.co/iTsNIijx69
— Jaelene Hinkle (@JaeHinkle_15) May 12, 2017
Following the news that Hinkle would not play in Thursday’s game, many voices attacked her on Twitter.
Jaelene Hinkle “took her homophobic a** off the USWNT roster bc she refused to wear #pridemonth jerseys. Good. You dont [sic] represent USA’s values,” one Hillary Clinton supporter tweeted.
Another user suggested Hinkle was “throwing [her] football career away” because she “can’t stand gay people.”
These attacks followed Hinkle’s clear, deliberate decision not to specify her reasons for withdrawing from the game.
— Neil Morris (@ByNeilMorris) June 8, 2017
Furthermore, the Christian soccer player’s decision not to emphasize her opposition to the jerseys may have come from her general faith approach to LGBT issues. In her Instagram post following Obergefell, Hinkle wrote that “Jesus didn’t come to save those who already believed in Him. He came so that the lost, rejected, and abandoned men and women would find Him and believe.”
While she lamented the legalization of gay marriage, this soccer player emphasized that Obergefell should be an encouragement to Christians to be more loving — “that through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ.”
Nevertheless, Hinkle boldly declared, “I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. … This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will.” The Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity, despite some Christian arguments for gay marriage.
Even while vehemently disagreeing with the legalization of gay marriage, Hinkle emphasized love and grace, not judgement or “hate.” Similarly, her approach to dropping out of the game this past week suggested a reserved decision to follow her conscience, not a desire to grandstand or judge her fellow players or the LGBT people their jerseys celebrated.
In recent years, Christians who have followed the dictates of their own conscience in business and in public acts have been demonized and penalized. Oregon bakers have been forced out of business after refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. A Washington florist was fined for refusing to serve a gay wedding. A Massachusetts state guidance dictated that churches must follow transgender ideology regardless of their beliefs. An LGBT group in Ohio announced its intentions to force churches to host gay weddings on their property. In a shocking display of hypocrisy, Wisconsin students argued that a Muslim singer should be able to reject a request to sing at Christmas, but that a Christian should not be able to refuse requests at LGBT events.
Individuals and churches should have the right to opt out of supporting messages they disagree with in public settings. This should apply to churches being able to reject hosting gay weddings, to bakers and florists being able to reject serving LGBT events, and to soccer players being able to refuse jerseys promoting an LGBT message.
U.S. Soccer has the freedom to promote messages that the federation believes in. While many Americans might become annoyed at the politicization of sports, U.S. Soccer is a free agency and has free speech. Its players should have the same freedom, and Hinkle should not be demonized for her decision to pull out of the June 8 game, whether or not it was motivated by her disagreement with the LGBT message.