Last week the U.S. Women’s National Team released their roster for the upcoming Tournament of Nations, which is a four-team friendly competition kicking off today in Kansas City. The USWNT will battle against Brazil, Japan, and Australia in a group-play style format over an 8-day span.
One of the biggest story lines to come out was the inclusion of outside back Jaelene Hinkle. For those not aware of why her invite to the team was controversial, in June of 2017 the North Carolina Courage defender was named to the USWNT’s training camp, but refused the call-up, citing “personal reasons.” In an interview released just last month, the devout Christian explained that her decision in 2017 was motivated by her desire not to wear the USWNT’s special LGBTQ Pride Month jersey. Naturally, that created a firestorm of manufactured outrage by the professional victims within the soccer world.
The push back was loud and forceful. Fans at opposing team’s stadiums have been boisterous, indignant, and harsh towards Jaelene. Even mocking her “personal reasons” decision with signs and chants. These fans professed that Hinkle should not have the honor of wearing the U.S. kit ever again because she is "intolerant" and "not inclusive" of gays. As far as I am concerned, these so-called fans of the USWNT allow blatant hypocrisy to infringe on the betterment of the team.
Take Stephanie Yang of The Athletic and StarsandStripesFC.com, for instance. Her recent piece entitled “Jaelene Hinkle got called up to the USWNT. Now what?” which included a sub-headline of “So there’s a homophobe on your team.” was inciting and provocative. Miss Yang seems pretty tolerant and inclusive with such a stance, doesn't she?!
As I stated in my original article about Jaelene, I do not care one iota about what a person’s sexual preference is or isn’t. Be straight, be gay, be bi-sexual, whatever you damn well please. What I find to be utterly ridiculous regarding this whole manufactured “controversy” is that Jaelene did nothing egregious or malicious by refusing the USWNT call-up last summer. She didn’t grandstand, she refused to make a spectacle of herself or U.S. Soccer, she simply declined a call up due to not wishing to represent a political agenda forced upon her by a national federation. I applaud her for that.
Personally, I was thrilled for Jaelene to be called into this most recent camp. Unfortunately, she was released just a few days into training and will not be representing the USWNT at this tournament. Her release was met with outward joy and cheer from supposed USWNT fans. My initial assumption was this was a shaming tactic. Hinkle being called into camp and subsequently released was a way for USWNT management to publicly embarrass her. It was a power move to make a point. Maybe I am wrong with that feeling. I sure do hope I am incorrect. But given the political division within our country, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a ploy to show up Hinkle in front of the soccer world.
It was a no brainer that a player of her caliber be included on this squad. Anyone with even an average soccer IQ acknowledges she is one of the best (if not the best) outside back in the country. Her current club manager, Courage head coach Paul Riley, can’t understand why USWNT coach, Jill Ellis didn't keep Hinkle on the roster. “She’s been the best left back in the league this year, of that there’s absolutely no question,” Riley explained.
Yang herself even admits that Hinkle is the cream of the crop…
“Hinkle has undoubtedly been one of the best left backs in the league, becoming a key part of the North Carolina Courage’s starting XI. But Hinkle is also someone who has very publicly professed homophobic views, so it should be little wonder that some USWNT fans are upset about the decision to invite her back to the team. A known homophobe is playing for a team that just last month proudly touted its support for the LGBTQ community and features an openly gay player and an openly gay coach. What now, if you’re a queer USWNT fan?”
What now, you ask? I’ll tell you what now… You appreciate her inclusion, you tolerate her ability and you root for Hinkle and the entire USWNT.
Ultimately, I am dumbfounded as to why U.S. Soccer deems it necessary to promulgate such a potentially divisive campaign. And why just focus on Pride Month? The United States has a slew of other cause dedicated months to choose from- Black History Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, ALS Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Movember, etc. I have a simple solution for U.S. Soccer… Quit asking players to wear pride shirts. U.S. Soccer is wrong to have rainbow colors, or any other color that promotes political issues. Just play soccer! The only allowable colors on the U.S. kits are red, white and blue. Why? Because, any player representing the stars and stripes on our nations flag is a-ok in my book. No matter what their political or religious affiliation may be, we should be all inclusive. I think we can all tolerate that.