Hope Solo is widely recognized as the best goalkeeper in the world. The thirty-five-year-old has been a member of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) since 1996 when she was player on the U16 Junior National team, and began goalkeeping for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) in 2000. Since that time, Solo has competed in numerous international tournaments as well as stateside games for both the USWNT and her current state team, Seattle Reign. In 2015, Solo was recorded to have some of the most impressive statistics in history, including 202 caps, 153 wins and 102 shutouts (http://www.ussoccer.com/womens-national-team). She, alongside her fellow teammates, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2008 and 2012) and a World Cup champion (2015).
Solo’s career took a turn for the worse, however, following the USWNT’s loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Summer 2016 Rio Olympics. Typically, this team dominates on the international front. They had performed their best through the first matches of the tournament, winning their group and advancing into the final rounds. On August 12, tensions were high when they tied with Sweden 1-1, playing into over-time, and subsequent penalty kicks. The loss hit hard for the players, coaches and fans. Unlike the rest of her team, though, Solo was vocal about her grievances stating, “We lost to a bunch of cowards. The better team did not win.”
In reaction to this show of poor sportsmanship, the decision was made by the USWNT to suspend Solo’s contract for a six-month period, in which she could not train with the team or compete in any stateside friendlies. This shook many fans, myself included, and arguments were made that this was just another example of gender inequality in women’s sports, highlighting the lack of critical decisions made by the NFL for the actions of prominent football players.
For years prior to this incident, however, Solo had proved to be a risk to the reputation of the organization. During the World Cup semifinal in 2007, Solo was reprimanded for speaking ill of her coach Greg Ryan in an interview for starting the backup keeper, Brianna Scurry, instead of her. In 2012, Solo criticized former U.S. player Brandi Chastain on Twitter. And most notably, in 2014, Solo was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of domestic violence against her sister-in-law and nephew. Prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Solo also shared these two controversial posts on Twitter:
Despite these marks on her record, she was allowed to keep playing. Unfortunately for Solo, her most recent actions officially crossed the line, and not long after word broke of her suspension, the federation terminated her contract. USSF president Sunil Gulati remarked in a New York Times article, “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 benefitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”
In order to function as a prominent organization and to be respected in society, ethos, or credibility, must be continually maintained. The USSF is a prestigious group, but with this prestige comes the responsibility of its players to uphold the high standards and values, and Hope Solo posed a dire threat to their credibility. Since her first incident in 2007, the leading members of the organizations bent backwards so that they could maintain their image and hold together a women’s team that performed so well together. At the end of the day, however, Solo’s continual actions displayed, according to Gulati, “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” The USSF could no longer stand to have its credibility tarnished.
This verdict caused lots of uproar. As a die-hard USWNT fan, I was shocked when I heard the news. When viewing the situation through a rhetorical lens and considering Solo’s history, though, the decision becomes justifiable. And as much as it hurts to watch the world’s best goalkeeper walk off the international field for good, I can understand their motives.
She will forever be a loved and commended soccer player.
Images retrieved from:
– Hannah Ewers