Someone needs to write this piece. We get all manner of thinkpieces about fake distractions (like kneeling during the national anthem), let’s talk about a real one. Being a bigot.
I’ll backtrack. Reports surfaced today that US Women’s Soccer player Jaelene Hinkle dropped out of the recent slate of friendlies because the team is wearing pride jerseys with rainbow numbers to support LGBTQ (as well as queer athletes like Megan Rapinoe who have been the face of US Soccer). The proceeds from jersey sales go to You Can Play, an organization dedicated to combating bullying in sports. They aren’t even an LGBTQ advocacy group, they just think people should stop treating queer people like shit.
This is what Jaelene Hinkle allegedly has a problem with: not treating LGBTQ people like shit.
Hinkle was drafted by the Western New York Flash in 2015. In 2016 the Flash acquired out midfielder Lianne Sanderson from the Orlando Pride. Prior to the 2017 season, the Flash moved to North Carolina to become the Courage. Sanderson has not participated with the team in any capacity since tearing her ACL in September of 2016.
I would suspect that the majority of the reason for Sanderson’s departure is not wanting to live in or play in the deeply homophobic state of North Carolina. As someone who was unaware of Hinkle’s homophobia until now, I have to wonder if that also played a part in Sanderson’s decision to leave the team. It possible that Sanderson was willing to deal with a homophobic teammate, or a homophobic home state, but not both.
Sanderson’s reasons for her decision aside, Hinkle is a problem for the Courage. She dramatically impacts their ability to bring in talent in a league where some of the best players (Megan Rapinoe, Jessica Fishlock) are queer. Why play with a player that hates you?
As a fringe national team member, this should earn Hinkle a one-way ticket home. Coach Jill Ellis can ill-afford to deal with this sort of conduct from a player who isn’t good enough to crack the starting lineup. (She shouldn’t deal with it at all, but this is the skewed morality of sports we’re talking about.)