CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was the first ever Pride Night at WakeMed Soccer Park, a carnival like party filled with dozens of LGBTQ+ vendors, live entertainment and food trucks, but one player caused controversy by refusing to take part.
NC Courage defender Jaelene Daniels made the news in 2017 after she declined to play on the women's national team citing her Christian faith in opposition to wearing a rainbow-themed jersey. On Friday night in Cary, Daniels did it again.
"Jaelene will not be rostered tonight as she has made the decision to not wear our pride jersey. While we're disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself," an NC Courage spokesperson said in a statement. "We're excited to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community with our fans, players and staff tonight and look forward to hosting our first ever Pride Festival before kickoff."
The festival went on as planned with fun and games, a soccer-themed celebration of inclusion.
"It is Daniels' opinion, and unfortunately it might not align with mine and a lot of other fans here. But she's here," fan Christina Bushnell said.
NC Courage took the field Friday in their special Pride night jerseys. All of the players', excluding Daniels, wore numbers shaded in with the colors of Pride.
Outside the soccer park, Victoria Vayer scrawled her Daniels' disapproval on a poster board for the game. She made a sign blasting Daniels for getting paid for not supporting her teammates.
"This is a clear example of her not being tolerant and yet we have LGBTQ+ players that have to be on this team with her day in and day out. How is their tolerance treated?," Vayer said.
As other fans poured into the game toting Pride flags, some waved off the controversy while others were dismissive of Daniels' decision.
"(Daniels) doesn't need to be here," said Nicky Dick. "You don't want to be part of it? Don't be here."
"I support the team no matter what. And everyone's got their own beliefs. We're just here to watch soccer," Jessica Miller added.