A Look at Jaelene Hinkle & the Response by U.S. Women’s Soccer

As a media company, we try and offer both sides to every story, but when the news broke that North Carolina defender Jaelene Hinkle was invited back to training with the USWNT after refusing to wear rainbow colored numbers because it represented support for the LGBTQ community, it hit a sensitive spot.

Ms. Hinkle is absolutely allowed to support or not support whoever she wants, but it struck us that many people who are fans of the sports, and players themselves, must have an emotional response to this.

We turned to one of our own writers, Gaby Alejandro, who has blogged about LGTBQ issues and news for us in the past, to get some perspective. Here’s a little bit about Gaby, and how she feels about the situation with Ms. Hinkle’s call-up. It should be noted that yesterday it was decided that Ms. Hinkle did not make the final roster-ing for the tournament, which begins with a U.S. game against Japan on Thursday, July 26th.

GSN: How long have you been following the women’s game? Both the NWSL and USWNT.

Gaby: I’ve been following the USWNT since the 2011 World Cup. I have vivid memories of that final game. I’ve been following the NWSL since my third year.

GSN: Do you feel supported, as a lesbian, with the attention the NWSL and USWNT give to the issue of equality?

GABY: Yes and no. I appreciate all they do during Pride Month. It’s always fun to see the rainbow colors come out, especially when you know the history of the rainbow flag and Pride itself. I don’t know of any other sports league that does this.

On the other hand, it does feel very vague and more geared towards selling Pride merchandise. It would be cool if someone actually said the word lesbian, though. I hope at some point they can tie the two together. And why not? There are so many lesbians in WoSo. A lesbian started Stonewall, we have the Pride to commemorate those brave gay men and lesbians who fought for our rights.

But before we can have equality, we must first get rid of oppression.

GSN: Were you aware that last season Jaelene Hinkle refused to wear rainbow-colored numbers on her USWNT jersey during June, Pride Month because it represented the support of the LGBT community and it was in direct conflict with her Christian values?

GABY: I was aware of this. At first, I laughed. It sounded so absurd. She gave up a prestigious spot on the #1 women’s soccer team in the world because the numbers were rainbows? It felt like such an insult. She was so disgusted by me and people like me that she couldn’t wear a rainbow for 90 minutes? Does she think so little of us that she couldn’t support our humanity?

There are lesbians on the team and I can’t imagine my sisters on the USWNT would feel comfortable playing alongside someone who is so repulsed by them that they refuse to wear rainbow numbers. How could anyone flourish on a team with someone like that?

I was so disappointed in her team, too. People defended her. You can’t hide behind religion when it comes to something like homophobia. This isn’t just an opinion. This is hate that negatively affects people’s lives.

GSN: Initially, as a result of her not wearing the rainbow-colored letters, Ms. Hinkle was not invited back to train with the USWNT. Did you know that?

GABY: I was also aware of this. I thought it was for the best. That’s fine. I really thought the USWNT was making a stand. There are better defenders out there who deserve a call-up.

GSN: How does it make you feel that the USWNT has invited her to their training this month?

GABY: It felt like a stab in the back. That might sound like a bit much, but it really did feel like a betrayal. Did they really care more about winning than the comfort and emotional well-being of several of their players? They were willing to tolerate homophobia for a trophy? Isn’t Jill Ellis married to a woman, too? How could she? Sacrificing morals in order to be the best… That’s not really being the best at all. I’m so critical because I love this team. I know she’s not on the final roster, but she’s still in camp. Still training. Still an option.

Additionally, I want to address those who haven’t spoken out about it. I understand that players may feel scared. We all know saying one word can essentially end a career. But this sort of behavior, this homophobic behavior (let’s call it what it is) was able to grow because people did not speak up. If there was any time to be brave, it’s now. Because if you stay neutral in the face of oppression, you side with the oppressor.

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