The Suspicious Timing Of Hope Solo’s Six Month Suspension

USWNTgoalkeeper Hope Solo at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. CREDIT: EUGENIO SAVIO, AP
USWNTgoalkeeper Hope Solo at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. CREDIT: EUGENIO SAVIO, AP

Last week in Rio, Hope Solo was the definition of a “sore loser.”

After the gold-medal favorite United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) was upset by Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals, Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards.”

“The best team did not win today,” she said.

Apparently U.S. Soccer was not amused by Solo’s candor. On Wednesday evening, the organization announced that Solo will be suspended from the team for six months for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” Her contract with the USWNT was also terminated, though she will still receive her salary for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

While Solo’s comments were certainly out of line, the timing of this suspension is suspect at best.

In the past two years, Solo has been charged for domestic violence and was in the car when her husband was charged with a DUI while driving a USWNT van. She only received a 30-day suspension total for both of those incidents.

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But both of those incidents also coincided with the USWNT’s lead-up to the World Cup in 2015. At this point, on the other hand, there aren’t any significant USWNT games for the next six months. It’s hard to read that as a coincidence.

Solo will be 38 years old the next time the USWNT plays in a major tournament, the 2019 World Cup. While she is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world, she is certainly past her prime.

Furthermore, Solo is currently one of five USWNT players who filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that U.S. Soccer was practicing wage discrimination by not paying the women’s national team the same amount as the men’s national team.

“I’ve been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly not much has changed,’’ Solo said on the Today Show back in March. “We believe now the time is right because we believe it’s a responsibility for women’s sports, specifically women’s soccer, to really do whatever it takes for equal pay and equal rights and to be treated with respect.”

Of course, it’s purely speculation whether this suspension has anything to do with Solo’s vocal fight for equal pay. But the punishment handed down to Solo this week does send a clear message that in U.S. Soccer’s eyes, trash-talking an opponent is apparently worse than violence and a DUI.

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In 2014, Solo was charged with domestic violence after a fight with her half-sister and nephew. While her lawyer long contended that she was actually the victim in that case, the charges were reinstated last fall after initially being dismissed in Washington state. In all, Solo only missed one game as goalie for her NWSL team the Seattle Reign, and despite many public cries for the organization to take action, she received no official suspension from U.S. Soccer.

It’s convenient their tipping point occurred when she was no longer useful to them.

Then last year, Solo and her husband borrowed a team van late at night and he was arrested for drunk driving. Solo was reportedly acting “belligerent” during the arrest. For that, she served a 30-day ban from the USWNT.

The USWNT’s Players’ Association is appealing the six-month suspension, and in a statement, executive director Rich Nichols said he questioned “whether this action would have been taken against a male player or coach, who, in the heated moments after a frustrating defeat, questioned the tactics of the opposing team.”

But no matter what happens with the appeal, it’s clear that U.S. Soccer has finally had it with Hope Solo. And it’s pretty convenient their tipping point occurred when she was no longer useful to them.