In the never-ending search for fuel to feed the conservative backlash against the world champion USWNT, some media outlets—mostly of the conservative Christian variety—dredged up a year-old interview with former USWNT defender Jaelene Hinkle. Talking to The 700 Club last May, Hinkle said that she turned down an invitation to join the national team in 2017 because she didn’t want to wear a LGBTQ pride jersey. Since that decision, Hinkle has been called up just once, for the 2018 Tournament of Nations. She was one of the final two cuts for the tournament, though, and has not been called up again.
Predictably, the conservative media and their audience have cast Hinkle’s absence from the World Cup as an inexcusable snubbing that proved the existence of the USWNT’s virulent anti-Christian sentiment. This conveniently ignores the fact that Hinkle herself stated that she figured by turning down that call-up in 2017, she was essentially ending her career with the national team.
It also ignores that USWNT staples like Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz, and Alyssa Naeher, to name just a few, have been outspoken about their Christian faith for years. They, somehow, have avoided getting run off the team by what these pundits perceive as an angry cabal of godless lesbians. Of course, these kinds of disingenuous outrages are never about anything more than providing new justification, regardless of how weak, for another round of frothy-mouthed gibbering, so the facts haven’t done much to stem the tide.
And so we come to the USWNT’s backup goalkeeper and chief Instagram archivist for the team’s post-World Cup celebrations, Ashlyn Harris, who weighed in on the renewed Hinkle controversy yesterday on Twitter:
It’s unclear whether Harris, in addressing Hinkle by name in her tweets, knew that the interview wasn’t new, but it doesn’t really matter much either way. Harris’s message is more a response to the latest backlash itself. She’s responding to the notion that the USWNT is somehow anti-Christian just because one Christian woman chose to ostracize herself from the team by prioritizing her aversion toward being seen as even passively supporting the LGBTQ community over her commitment to the national team—and, perhaps more importantly, to her would-be teammates, for whom LGBTQ causes are more than just jerseys with rainbow-colored numbers. (Harris, it’s worth noting, is in engaged to U.S. teammate Ali Krieger.)
Harris’s use of Hinkle as the vessel through which she can refute the self-evidently stupid claim that the USWNT is anti-Christian is understandable, though where she goes too far—in saying Hinkle “[doesn’t] belong in a sport that aims to unite”—is indicative of the broader problem with how outrage bubbles over online.
Hinkle—one relatively anonymous player who has been mostly silent on her faith-based bigotry, and who seems to get along well enough with her actual teammates on the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage—shouldn’t be made to stand in for all the sanctified vitriol Harris and the rest of the U.S. team has had to face. For the same reason, the national team shouldn’t be made to stand in for one half of an entire multi-generational culture war. It’s possible that this is simply about one person’s homophobia and another’s rebuke of that homophobia, without turning it into a battle for the Christian souls of the USWNT. But tell that to the conservative media machine, never quite ready to turn the other cheek where there’s outrage to be peddled.