It was an easy move, one convenient as well as appropriate. More significant is the federation’s decision to terminate her contract, which may well signal that Solo has played her final game for the U.S. team.
In announcing the federation’s decision, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati noted that Solo’s history, which includes other controversial statements as well as a pending case of alleged domestic violence involving two of her relatives and a previous suspension by U.S. Soccer for an incident involving the team’s van, played a part in the decision.
“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players,” Gulati’s statement said. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.
“Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”
Solo tweeted that her contract was terminated, too, but aside from the embarrassment for someone who is one of the country’s loftiest women’s soccer stars, there isn’t much teeth to the suspension, as Julie Foudy — with whom Solo has previously tangled — pointed out. With the World Cup and Olympics revenue streams behind, the women’s team has only two friendlies on its schedule for 2016.
“Solo essentially missing nothing w #USWNT & allowed to play w @SeattleReignFC, which US Soccer pays for,” Foudy, a star on the national team from 1988-2004 and now an ESPN commentator, tweeted. “More symbolic than substantive.”
While Solo has compiled staggering statistics over the course of her career, the Rio Olympics showed that either her skills or her dedication may be waning. By the time of the 2019 World Cup, her 38th birthday will be fast approaching and there’s a sense that it may be time for the women’s team to find its next great goalkeeper. If Solo isn’t the world’s best female goalkeeper anymore, keeping her on the national team isn’t worth the headache for U.S. Soccer.
“This was a no-brainer PR move involving a 35-year-old who had likely already played her final Olympic and World Cup match,” Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times writes, referring to her as “the wart that keeps growing back.”
“If character came before championships, we would have seen reprimands that actually jeopardized the USWNT’s chances on the field. That was always too much to ask.”
Like U.S. Soccer, her teammates have to be weary of being left to speak for her and find the delicate balance between supporting a teammate while refusing to condone her behavior. Solo’s preferred means of communication is emails to reporters so teammates, like Alex Morgan, were left to speak about the “cowards” comment. “I saw her comments, but I feel like those are opinions I don’t share,” Alex Morgan told USA Today. Megan Rapinoe, in an NBC interview, said she was “really disappointed” to learn of Solo’s remarks.
For Solo, poor decision-making always seems to come after she takes a step toward rehabbing her reputation. During the 2007 World Cup, for instance, she ripped Greg Ryan, the national team’s coach then, for replacing her in goal with Briana Scurry and said he was living in the past. During the London Olympics in 2012, she went after Brandi Chastain, one of the national team’s iconic stars, for her commentary, tweeting that she felt “bad 4 our fans that have 2 press mute” when she speaks.
At times, Solo has shown signs of maturity and an awareness that she is more than just an athlete. But those moments have been trumped by troubling off-the-pitch troubles. U.S. Soccer suspended her for 30 days in January 2015 after she was a passenger in a team van driven by her husband, Jerramy Stevens, when he was cited for driving under the influence during training in Los Angeles. That was during the lead-up to the World Cup, when Solo’s skills were unquestioned. “Hope made a poor decision that has resulted in a negative impact on U.S. Soccer and her teammates,” Ellis said in a statement at that time. “We feel at this time it is best for her to step away from the team.”
That pales, though, next to an alleged domestic violence incident that resulted in fourth-degree assault charges involving her half-sister and nephew in June 2014 and remains pending in Washington state courts. Among the ugly details of that incident, ESPN reported that an intoxicated Solo, when asked to remove a necklace by police, told an officer that her necklace cost more than his annual salary. Solo has described the incident as “traumatic and embarrassing” and called herself a victim in a February 2015 interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I’m not going to go into all of the details, but it was a scary night,” she said then. “I was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of my 17-year-old nephew, who is 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. I was struck over the head, and concussed pretty severely. It was a very scary night.”
Of late, Solo has sought to speak as a soccer statesman, only to trip herself up afterward. She and other women’s players filed a lawsuit against the soccer federation, alleging that they were paid nearly four times less than male national team members but generated more revenue. Solo (along with her teammates) also has spoken out forcefully about inferior field conditions that women face.
Then, she managed to insult Brazilians over the Zika crisis, saying she would go to Brazil but would not leave her hotel room. She compounded her message by tweeting photos of herself armed to the teeth against mosquitoes.
Was it any wonder she was overwhelmed with “Zika” chants by irked Brazilians?
Solo, who will receive three months’ severance pay, now will spend the next few months playing for the Seattle Reign in the NWSL; neither the team nor the league has responded to Post inquiries about her status. And she awaits resolution of her court case.
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s suspension, she shows a determination to remain true to herself no matter the cost.
“For 17 years, I dedicated my life to the U.S. Women’s National Team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how — with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country, but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes,” she tweeted. “In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the Federation’s decision to terminate my contract.
“I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game.”