Three-time national champion axed after controversies over her faith | Eastern North Carolina Now | “It looks like Jaelene stood for the Anthem, as well as for her faith,” said Rev. Mark Creech

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By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
October 20, 2022

Soccer player Jaelene Daniels will no longer be part of the North Carolina Courage, as the team announced this week, they will not renew her contract. The move comes months after some players and fans denounced Daniels’ stand for her faith. The 29-year-old, three-time national champion sat out a game during the team’s Pride Week, saying that she could not in good conscience wear a jersey promoting it. 

It was not the first time Daniels had taken a biblical stance on the issue. She declined an invitation to play for the U.S. national team in 2017 when they donned rainbow-colored numbers for Pride Month. When LGBTQ activists derided Courage management last year for re-signing Daniels after a short retirement, Daniels made it clear that she held no ill-will for her gay teammates. 

“My beliefs may call me to live differently, but my love runs deep for all… Labels do not keep us from loving others as we desire to be loved,” she wrote in a Twitter post at the time, adding, “I remain committed to my faith and my desire for people to know that my love for them isn’t based on their belief system or sexuality. I pray and firmly believe that my teammates know how much I cherish them, respect them and love them.”

Whether or not the Courage decided to axe Daniels specifically over fallout from her decision not to endorse Pride Week, remains to be seen. Interestingly, it’s been pointed out that the team has allowed players to express their individual beliefs by kneeling during the National Anthem. 

“It looks like Jaelene stood for the Anthem, as well as for her faith,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “In my opinion, she demonstrates for everyone what real ‘courage’ looks like. The fact she’s been playing for a team whose name contains the word ‘courage’ is nothing less than providential. Through his servant and in these circumstances, God speaks.”

Rev. Creech further commended Daniels’ willingness to sacrifice for the sake of an authentic Christian testimony.

“There is a particular brand of Christianity today, which is quite prevalent among professing believers. It is unquestionably a part of church life. It is characteristic of clergy and laity alike. It’s the kind of faith that costs very little or nothing. However, to truly follow Christ is expensive,” said the Rev. Creech. “I may believe in Christ’s work, his life, death, and resurrection for my salvation, but discipleship is the result of his work in me. Discipleship is living for God, dying to myself, bearing my Cross for the Savior, and living for the sake of others.”

Creech said people who say they believe must show that Christ is first if their profession is to take on any meaning or power.

“Innumerable people say they believe, but the demons believe, too. Yet they don’t change. They live, breathe, and operate by a system of values contrary to God’s character and law,” he said. “It is a reproach to God for a professing believer in Christ to sit Lot-like in the gates of Sodom – to sit quietly in the presence of an abomination and offer no loving rebuke. To do such is its own abomination.”

Creech said, “Many people say they believe but their lives don’t look very different from those who haven’t professed faith in Christ. I think a lot of believers today are going to get into heaven by the skin of their teeth, and have no reward after they get there. We are all saved by grace alone, but only those who demonstrate a consecrated life will store up rewards in heaven. These people will have nothing to lay at Christ’s feet by which they may give glory and honor to his name.”

Daniels is by no means the only athlete to value faith over fans. Earlier this year, University of North Carolina basketball player Leah Church left the team when the new coaching staff required players to show support for causes opposed to Christian values.

A homeschooled daughter of missionary parents, Daniels had earned a full scholarship to play for the Tar Heels. Although she initially felt supported by Coach Sylvia Hatchell and a Christian teammate, she said after Hatchell retired and that teammate left, she was singled out for refusing to take part in or condone behavior that didn’t line up with her faith.

“I decided in light of eternity, that basketball wasn’t worth it,” Church said of her decision to walk away.

Creech said faithfulness like Daniels’ and Church’s is transformational in its influence. “It’s always been this kind of faith that convicts and draws others to a right relationship with God,” he said.

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