Hope Solo is currently serving a six-month suspension from the U.S. Women’s National soccer team (USWNT) after her comments following a match against Sweden. After Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s light rebuke, many argue Solo’s suspension is another example of sexism in sports. Solo, however, has received more than her fair share of grace.
Solo was arrested in 2014 on two counts of domestic violence. Her half-sister and nephew claimed she had been violent toward them, while Solo claimed her nephew sexually assaulted her. After drunkenly resisting arrest and threatening the officers involved, she pled not guilty and was eventually released due to lack of evidence. She was then allowed to fully participate with the USWNT following her release.
A few months later she was suspended for 30 days from Team USA after breaking organizational rules while training for the World Cup. Solo was in a drunken rage toward the police while her husband was arrested for a DUI. Solo was not arrested, but she did not inform the team of her incident, and was suspended when her manager heard the report on TMZ. The USWNT had been under severe scrutiny for the light suspension after her violation of team rules, and for not similarly suspending Solo after her arrest just four months earlier.
The “slap-on-the-wrist” 30-day suspension indicates the team purposefully overlooked her actions because they needed her. They needed her soccer ability, her fame and the profit brought by her presence on the field. This incident should have been a warning to her: if she broke team rules, or had another big incident with the law, then getting off the hook would come to an end. And that’s exactly what happened.
Her press conference following Team USA’s match against Sweden in the Rio Olympics was the final straw. Solo called the Swedish players “cowards” for their style of play against the U.S. Even her teammates openly rebuked her in their own interviews, saying these comments were not what the program stood for and went against the organization’s policies. The team wanted to have a certain image, and she broke that image.
Solo’s six-month suspension is not sexism: it’s simply the product of a player breaking team standards multiple times. She has had ample amounts of grace, forgiveness, and even smaller punishments. It was time to send her a message. She was not conducting herself at the standards to which the USWNT holds their players.
Solo’s suspension is justified. She broke the rules multiple times. Maybe we need to see her six-month suspension as the team looking to create a new culture where any player, even the team’s best player, is not above the rules and subject to punishment.