Jaelene Daniels plays for the Courage in 2019. (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The North Carolina Courage apologized to LGBTQIA+ fans over the recent signing of Jaelene Daniels in a statement on Wednesday night.

The Courage’s decision to bring back the defender on Sunday received widespread criticism because of comments Daniels has made in the past about the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2015, Daniels tweeted that the “world is falling farther and farther away from God” on the same day the Supreme Court extended same-sex marriage laws to all 50 states. Two years later, she declined a call-up to the U.S. women’s national team over her refusal to wear a jersey honoring Pride Month, citing her Christian beliefs.

In the Courage’s initial release, team owner Steve Malik said the prospect of signing Daniels “sparked a lot of discussion internally, and with a cross section of fans.” In Wednesday’s statement, the Courage said the decision “was not made lightly.”

“The priority expressed in those conversations is the safety of our players and maintaining an inclusive, respectful space for the entire team,” the club wrote.

“Players will be supported in expressing pride in who they are and will continue to wear their Pride number with confidence and honor. We actively support Head Coach Sean Nahas’ clear mission: To make sure Courage players have a voice and feel empowered to be who they are, without fear of judgment. Jaelene and organization leadership have a productive conversation about the expectations we have set for our entire team, in and out of the locker room, and she will continue to uphold the Courage’s standards of respect and inclusion without reservation.”

The Courage then outlined specific action items they will take to “remedy the harm” of Daniels’ signing, including:

  • Continuing to host and enhance Pride games to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Continuing to outfit players in custom-made Pride jerseys
  • Continuing to participate in local Pride events, parades and festivals
  • Continuing to produce Pride x Courage merchandise with proceeds going to local LGBTQIA+ groups.
  • Continuing to fully support the club’s Athlete Ally ambassadors on both the Courage and NCFC sides.
  • Facilitate additional diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives alongside supporters and community members to improve our club culture.
  • Amplify organizations that bring awareness to LGBTQIA+ causes.
  • Identify volunteer opportunities to support LGBTQIA+ initiatives.
  • Welcome ideas from the Courage community to help hold the club accountable

Daniels put out a statement of her own on Wednesday, in which she said she looks forward to “meeting, speaking and growing” with fans over the course of the season.