Our first NWSL match for the 15th Collection of Games this season takes place in North Carolina on the 4th of July. It's an interesting location for a day of national celebration, as (you might have heard) it spent more than a few years trying to not be a part of the nation we're celebrating. In some increasingly vocal circles, those days aren't as far in the past as one might hope. 

Recently, the 700 Club interview appearance by the North Carolina Courage's Jaelene Hinkle has become a flashpoint between fans and one of the (ONLY NINE) teams in the National Women's Soccer League. Twitter (and fans with banners and chants in various stadiums stadiae? stadii?) connects the dots directly between those with strong feelings one way or another about Hinkle and what her beliefs mean to the world at large. Occasionally, even high profile coaches get involved.

The thread is worth a look, as it demonstrates the variety of responses people often have in response to something they strongly oppose. There's sanctimony, anger, fear, a prescient political comic strip, a couple of news articles and more. There's a lot of pointed name-calling and labeling. Did I mention the sanctimony?

Here's the thing: the country we're celebrating this week has founding tradition supporting freedom of speech. But it's never even hinted that the speech one chooses to freely share would or should be without consequences. 

When people say objectionable things, they're rightly going to hear from those who object. When those who object say things that the first group thinks are objectionable in response, they're going to hear about it from the first crew. A strategy on either side that says effectively, "YOU ARE TERRIBLE AND YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU SUCK AND YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR MIND AND THINK LIKE ME," is almost never successful. OK, it's never successful. See also: all of recorded human history. 

Hinkle is entitled to her seemingly deeply-held interpretation of the teachings of Jesus that led her to feeling that it "wasn't (her) job" to wear the rainbow-numbered USWNT shirt. Paul Riley is entitled to think that someone on Twitter is pathetic. Various fans are entitled to believe that people who espouse such thoughts shouldn't have jobs in a league that is otherwise generally a fairly safe environment for LGBTQ persons. But nobody is entitled to have their speech be free from consequences. 

Jaelene Hinkle just turned 25 years old. She's probably held her beliefs since childhood, and those types of beliefs are sometimes difficult to challenge or overcome. But she's old enough that she has to deal with the consequences of taking action on her beliefs. From her interview, it seems she believes her faith will challenge her by forcing her to face the consequences of acting in line with her beliefs. I'm sure that's a pretty difficult challenge for her given her chosen career and the overwhelmingly contrary view held by most women's soccer fans. She hears about it. She's getting the consequences. She'll continue to deal with this as long as she's a public figure. Fair enough, right?

Maybe not. Maybe her speech is sufficiently dangerous that it emboldens others to action. Maybe she becomes a role model for those seeking an excuse to hold anti-LGBTQ views. Maybe there is a girl, somewhere in NC, who'd previously thought it was OK to come out to her youth soccer team, who chooses to wait in quiet anguish for fear that one or more of her teammates might hold beliefs similar to Hinkle's. Maybe the consequences of Hinkle's speech don't just land on Hinkle. Maybe she doesn't consider that, and maybe she should.

But what about those who disagree? Are they prepared for the consequences of their own speech? If, as some demand, fans boycott a team that set up shop in a state with a deplorable history and (to be generous) debatable present with respect to LGBTQ rights, especially one that employs a starter who has spoken out about her beliefs that don't seem either Christian or modern or rational or not-dangerous, what happens?

Does the team fold or move, taking with it a great example of what's possible for gender equality? Does the team stop continuing to help normalize things like Pride in a part of the country that might otherwise not be super excited to embrace such things? Should the team fire Hinkle over a religious belief and get sucked into a court battle it would be almost certain to lose, losing with it many fans who might have considered supporting a women's soccer team and league in North Carolina? Are these the consequences that those who disagree with Hinkle are prepared to accept?

Those are more bad consequences that don't just land on those who are expressing their freedom of speech.

People are complicated, and none of us are perfect. People believe TONS of incomprehensibly stupid things. I'm one of them, and so are you. But we have to navigate this country together. We have to demonstrate by our example that our various beliefs are worthy of respect. We might want to try, but we don't get to just download ethics, tolerance and equanimity into every American brain via the internet and cell phone towers.

But we do have the opportunity to fight for these values, and stand up for them, and demand movement in the direction of justice and equality. That's a tall order in the present political climate. I'd like to suggest that shutting down something that is incrementally better than nothing for women's equality in sport is NOT the answer to one of those teams trying to allow a player with objectionable views to play. It's not perfect. It's not what we'd like. It's a constant reminder that we're not where we want to be. But on a spectrum of Zero Women's Sports to Full Gender Equality in Sport, it's much better than Zero. Should it have to wait? No. Hell no. 

This kid deserves our best efforts.

This kid deserves our best efforts.

The world we want to build goes up one brick at a time. When a brick is faulty, those around it have to be extra strong to take up the slack. We're in a (sunken?) place right now where we've discovered a crappy orange fake construction mogul has peppered our world with bricks that seemed mostly OK but were just waiting to go bad. Some among us were never fooled, but there are many who've only recently woken up to the reality of just how many bricks we thought were dependable parts of our future world now threaten to bring it crashing down. We've got to hold together until those bricks that can recover are able to regain their strength. We've got to repair and reinforce the bricks that can be fixed. We've got to resist the urge to let nicks and cracks distract us from serious structural risks that could tilt the future in a direction we'd never want to go. We've got to show those nicked bricks the best example of what we're trying to build so that they're inspired to join in the effort. We've got to do this together. And we've got to keep building, ever upward.

North Carolina's state motto, "esse quam videri," was adopted in 1893 (100 years before Jaelene Hinkle was born). The latin phrase comes from Cicero and translates to, "to be rather than to seem." It's a challenge to live up to the virtues we espouse, rather than just to espouse them outwardly. That's much more difficult, and entails much greater personal consequences. But if the current political reality should teach us anything, it's that how things "Seem" can be very different than how things "Be." As Lin-Manuel Miranda might have put it, "Seeming is easy, son, being is harder."

So, I'm with North Carolina. 100 years later, it's time to stop with the seeming and start getting down with the being. That means less apoplectic tweeting and more local participation. Less burning down the whole house when we find some termite damage. Less clearcutting an orchard when there are a few worms in some apples. Those might seem like solutions, but what will the costs truly be?

For the time being, we still have a republic, and we can still put people in office who will help craft the future we want to share. That's the most certain way to make sure things are moving (ever slowly) in the right direction. Run for office. Volunteer. Join a group. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Show up and tell your elected officials what you want to see them do for the country. Vote.

Let's be the big tent, welcoming majority we can and should be.

Together, we can be.

What Happened in COG 14?

I got so much wrong last week. Oh, right, that's normal. So normal, I kept this intro sentence from last week's article!

Last Wednesday:
Orlando 1-2 Houston ?
Utah 0-0 Seattle ?
Portland 1-1 Sky Blue ?!?

Orlando 0-3 North Carolina
Utah 3-1 Sky Blue
Seattle 1-0 Portland (WTF Thorns?!?)

Chicago 2-0 Washington

This week, we'll have a slow roll-out of games as soon as we have injury reports. That will also permit me to remind you when I'm super wrong.

Chicago Red Stars at North Carolina Courage

Wednesday at 7PM Eastern on Go90

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.33.14 PM.jpg

Happy 4th of July! Before the fireworks start, enjoy this matchup between the suddenly super entertaining Chicago Red Stars and the NC Courage. The Red Stars have only one loss in their last five games and currently sit fourth on the table. A win would push them to second on points, but they'll have played more games than the other close teams. 

But that injury report! Ugh! Chicago's is—blank. Only Stephanie McCaffrey appears (out due to illness), and she hasn't been a part of the active player roster for months. Rory Dames will have his choice for an XI tonight.

For the home side, Abby Dahlkemper, Jaelene Hinkle, Sam Mewis and Katelyn Rowland are all listed as questionable. Eddy and King remain unavailable.

Chicago needs this win, but as Orlando learned last weekend, the Courage aren't a team that is willing to give up points. I can make a theoretical case for a draw, and based on the past two weeks I could even see a Red Stars win here, but I think NC holds tough at home and forces Chicago to head to Saturday's game in New Jersey with a bit more pressure than they'd like. 

North Carolina Courage 3-2 Chicago Red Stars

UPDATE: 4-1 Courage. Ouch.

Utah Royals at Portland Thorns

Friday at 11PM Eastern on Go90

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.48.58 PM.jpg

Number five visits number six on the nine-team table on Friday night, with hoping desperately to avoid disappointment. In addition to the single point advantage, Utah has a game in hand over Portland, so they've got a slightly easier path to continued success. Still, it's always challenging for any team to win at Providence Park. Or, well, it used to be.

This season hasn't been great to the Thorns. They only have one win in their last five, and there are two losses in that bunch as well. The Royals have three wins and a draw with just one loss in the same run of games. They're coming together well with a certain new addition, and Portland just hasn't been able to find any kind of consistency. Plus...

So what does it mean for tonight's results? 

Portland finds a way to win. They have to. Right?

Portland Thorns 3-1 Utah Royals

UPDATE: 4-0 Thorns! Ouch!

Chicago Red Stars at Sky Blue FC

Saturday at 7PM Eastern on Go90

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 3.04.59 PM.jpg

I'm afraid to report that I can't make a compelling case for Sky Blue again. This one is all Red Stars, all night long. Sorry Sky Blue fans.

Sky Blue FC 1-4 Chicago Red Stars

Washington Spirit at Orlando Pride

Saturday at 7:30PM Eastern on ESPNEWS

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 3.05.09 PM.jpg

I have some ESP News for you. Orlando isn't going to fall to Washington on Saturday night. All winning teams are scoring 4 goals this week, so let's keep it up.

Orlando Pride 4-2 Washington Spirit

Houston Dash at Seattle Reign

Saturday at 10PM Eastern on Go90

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 3.05.15 PM.jpg

Four Seattle Goals! Let's do it!

Seattle Reign 4-2 Houston Dash