U.S. Soccer’s handling of Hope Solo’s case was bungled but not sexist

ViceSports’ Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote an interesting article about Hope Solo’s 6 month suspension from the United States Women’s National team. Mr. Schaerlaeckens (man that’s tough to spell!) made a lot of good salient points about the ham handed way U.S. Soccer has reacted to various discretions Ms. Solo has had during her tenure on the USWNT.

However, I disagree with his analysis that Ms. Solo’s punishment by U.S. Soccer was sexist.  Comparing her Olympic outburst  to Cristiano Ronaldo’s at EURO 2016 and various indiscretions from male members of the USMNT is plain wrong, this suspension was strictly a business decision, nothing more, nothing less.

  1. US Men could make the comments but Hope can’t! Mr. Schaerlaeckens fell into the same trap that many writers who have written about the USWNT’s equal pay struggles have also done.  You can not compare the USWNT to the USMNT.  It’s essentially comparing apples to oranges.   Hope Solo is a full time employee of US Soccer, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard are not.   Hope Solo drew a salary and benefits from US Soccer, while the men’s team are full-time employees of their selected clubs, and play for the USMNT on a freelance basis.    The men do not earn a dime if they do not play, and can also elect to play or not play for US Soccer at their own discretion.   If US Soccer were upset by any of their comments, they would simply not select them for the next match, and they would have no financial liability to the player.  Hope Solo was under contract to the USWNT and would still draw a salary if she was hurt or was not selected to play in Rio and like any business, as a full-time employee of US Soccer her actions would receive greater a disciplinary response then the actions of a free lance employee.
  2. What about Ronaldo! Mr. Schaerlaeckens and Clay Travis’ comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo’s comment are also invalid because Mr. Ronaldo’s comments about Iceland’s defensive style were made while Portugal was still alive in the tournament.   If the Portugal FA were upset by the comments, they still had matches to play in EURO 2016, and they needed their best player.  If the USWNT had lost to Sweden in the last game of group play, and Hope Solo made the same coward comments toward Sweden after the match, you can bet your bottom dollar Hope Solo would have escaped punishment and been between the pipes for the knockout stage.
  3.  Wrong Place, Wrong Time! Hope Solo’s comments also fell victim to the time and place at which she made them.  The USWNT were World Cup champions and heavy favorites to win the gold in Rio.  They were pretty much declared unbeatable and a lock.  Unlike the World Cup, the Olympics get the attention of every news and sports media outlet in the United States, so when Hope made her coward comments it further reinforced the “Ugly American” sore loser stereotype,  it was naturally going to get much more scrutiny and criticism then if she had made them at the Women’s World Cup.  US Soccer was embarrassed by Hope on the world stage and decided they finally had enough.
  4. Services no longer Required! Hope has been a pain in the ass to US Soccer for the better part of her career, but her talent was so great they put up with her shit as long as the team was  winning Olympic golds and a World Cup title.   Judging by the lack of outrage to the suspension from Hope’s teammates and the reactions of Julie Foudy and Megan Rapinoe to Hope’s comments it was clear her teammates had also had enough. The loss to Sweden ended the current cycle for the USWNT and also meant no revenue generating “Victory Tour” for the US Soccer.  2 friendlies in September are scheduled for the rest of 2016, and then is no big event until the Women’s World Cup  in 2019.  Hope will be 38 in 2019, so chances are pretty good the USWNT can find a better option.  Just like her male counterparts in teams sports once she was deemed expendable, she was kicked to the curb.

Yes, this suspension is over the top and does not fit the crime, and I have a big problem suspending someone for postgame comments., but the sexist argument does not hold water,  and the comparisons are not valid.    Bottom line, US Soccer did not need Hope Solo anymore and wanted out of her contract.  They used her comments as a flimsy excuse to terminate their deal.  I might not agree with how they did it but it’s time to cut Hope loose, thank her for her service and move on.


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