By many accounts, Hope Solo is an incredible goalkeeper and a pain in the ass of a human. She’s had plenty of run-ins with propriety in the past, but it seems that referring to the Swedish women’s team as “a bunch of cowards” really just pushed her home team over the edge. On Saturday, Seattle Reign FC announced that Solo would be placed on personal leave...indefinitely.
News of Solo’s departure comes just days after she was declared ineligible to play for the U.S. team for six months. According to the AP:
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Solo’s comments were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.”
“Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect,” Gulati said. “We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”
Solo’s behavior was rude, certainly, but does the punishment necessarily fit the crime? Or was the “coward” comment just the tepid insult that finally broke the camel’s back?
This, after all, isn’t the goalie’s first time being suspended. She was given 30 days last January after her husband, the former Seattle Seahawk Jerramy Stevens, was caught drunkenly driving a U.S. Soccer team van around Manhattan Beach, with Solo apparently his belligerent passenger. As U.S. Coach Jill Ellis said at the time, Solo’s behavior “resulted in a negative impact on U.S. Soccer and her teammates,” thus justifying her suspension.
There’s also the fact that her teammates don’t seem to like her. National team veteran Megan Rapinoe told NBC that she was “really disappointed” by Solo’s comments, adding
“That’s not our team, that’s not what this team has always been, that’s not what this team will be in the future.”
Then there’s her misdemeanor domestic violence charge, which stemmed from a convoluted 2014 incident in which she was accused of assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. That case remains unresolved—earlier this year, a Washington appeals court rejected her request to avoid trial.
But setting those past wrongs aside, upending Solo’s career over a relatively benign comment is an overreaction. The question remains whether her draconian punishment is Solo-specific, or whether women generally are held to a standard that soccer-playing men are not. In June, Cristiano Ronaldo criticized Team Iceland for having a “small mentality,” to little fanfare and zero repercussions. In 2015, Clint Dempsey was forced to sit out just three games after he assaulted a ref. That Solo is being censured more harshly than Dempsey—who made physical contact with an official—is ludicrous.
Solo has yet to comment on her leave from the Reign, though she did express her disappointment with U.S. Soccer in a tweet earlier this week.