Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards?
Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards? avatar

In a move that seems both paternalistic and hypocritical U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday that it has suspended Hope Solo from the U.S. WNT for six months for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.”

Solo's punishment seems convenient for  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo’s punishment seems convenient for the federation. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

With no major competition scheduled in women’s soccer until the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France this action by U.S. Soccer comes at a convenient time for the organization while it also appears designed to bring an end to the 35-year-old goalkeepers brilliant, if often controversial national team career.

Solo’s contract with U.S. Soccer has also been terminated, although she will be eligible for reinstatement and a new contract in February.

In its press release, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati cites Solo’s comments after the team lost to Sweden in which the combustible keeper called Sweden “cowards” for taking a conservative approach to the game. Gulati also states that because of “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.”

Sweden played a very defensive style of soccer which brought a lot of frustration to the U.S.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Sweden played a very defensive style of soccer which frustrated the Americans.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Calling Sweden cowards was certainly ill-mannered but it is difficult to imagine a player of Solo’s stature on the U.S. Men’s National Team being sent to the woodshed for six months for a similar offense. In fact, U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s frequent calls for his players to be meaner, and to “step on their toes”, if taken at face value, would seem to violate Gulati’s following statement far more egregiously than Solo’s “coward” remarks.

“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.”

We need only think back to a December 2011 incident involving Jermaine Jones to see the behavioral double standard that exists for men and women’s soccer players in the eyes of U.S. Soccer. While playing for his then club, Schalke, in a 3-1 loss versus Borussia Monchengladbach, Jermaine Jones, perhaps the most controversy-plagued member of the U.S. MNT, deliberately stomped on the foot of Gladbach star Marco Reuss, who was known to be wearing a special shoe designed to protect a broken toe.

Jermaine Jones was traded(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Jermaine Jones act was of more severity yet his punishment was less. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Jones was suspended from German soccer for eight weeks for the assault, and assault is the word. Consider that Schalke General manager Horst Heldt used the word twice while defending Jones, saying this on the team website:

“I don’t want to downplay this, it was an assault which requires a certain penalty.”

“But there have been similar assaults which were then punished in the competition in which they took place.”

Following the incident, a prominent German commentator dubbed Jones the nastiest player in German soccer.

So how did U.S. Soccer treat the nastiest player in Germany? Did it suspend Jones? Banish him outright? No, it did no such thing. Instead, Jones was named captain the first chance Klinsmann got. The coach not only called the suspended player into January camp, Klinsmann handed Jones the captain’s armband for a pair of “friendlies” against Venezuela and Panama.

It is also hard to ignore the timing of this move by U.S. Soccer while also taking into account the slight but noticeable slip in Solo’s play during the just completed Olympic Games. The U.S. Soccer statement notes that Solo was suspended early in 2015 for 30 days, a suspension that stemmed from Solo’s fight with her sister and 17-year-old nephew.

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France in this years Olympics. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That suspension ended in plenty of time for Solo, still clearly the best U.S. goalkeeper at the time, to get back into game shape for the Americans victorious World Cup run. Now with the World Cup and the Olympics out of the way the U.S. WNT has three years to find and groom a replacement for Solo, whose baggage has apparently become too heavy a load to bear given that she will be almost 38 years old when the World Cup kicks off in France.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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10 Responses to Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards?
Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards? avatar

  1. Jeff Hill says:

    I would take Hope Solo on my team any day. Tough cookie. I hate packing it in styles of play, yes it may be successful in tournament play such as the Olympics but does nothing for the players. Only the coaches status.

  2. Anthony DiLugi says:

    There is one thing author did not consider in comparison: Solo was playing in game representing US WNT. Jones was playing in a professional club game, not representing Team USA, not sporting colors of Team USA and not making stupid, unsportsmanlike comments in a world stage event. Solo should just suck it up and be pissed in the privacy of her own life. Despite her being competitive and blah blah blah, she should just accept a team strategized to beat team USA and accomplished it. Perhaps the best GK in the world could have come up with one game changing save in PK shootout. Oh, thats right she had opportunity and failed.

    • Peter Nolan says:

      I did consider your point and it is legitimate. But by not only playing Jones during a suspension but by naming him captain, Klinsmann was condoning the actions that earned Jones that ban. Also, I am not in favor of Solo’s comments, I’ve been critical of them, I just think this was an overreaction and cannot imagine a male player suspended for them. Remember Ronaldo’s comments about Iceland? – and yes, I know he doesn’t play for the U.S.

      • Anthony DiLugi says:

        True in the case of Jones, but I believe this with Solo was the straw which broke the proverbial camels back. While it is true that some elite players have baggage, it poses a huge PR issue when they have as many public spectacles as Solo has had. And, it was done at an event which is supposed to epitomize sportsmanship. Great player, but unfortunately, not the type of character that other young players should aspire to.

  3. Nick says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head in your final statement. The US WNT has three years to groom a replacement. If Hope Solo wasn’t suspended they would have a hard time justifying playing time for any other keeper. At 38 when the next World Cup comes around she will be in the twilight of her career. We all saw 38 year old Gigi Buffon miss the PK save that took Italy out of the Euro 2016. A slightly younger Gigi probably would have saved that PK. Maybe the suspension is just part of the plan to take her out of the US womens soccer spotlight making it easier to replace her.

  4. Liz says:

    Good story. Noteworthy that USSF underplayed the sanction by omitting from its pres release that the contract was terminated (the more significant sanction)? Loss of health benefits no biggie, I reckon? Also noteworthy that the contract termination sends a very chilling message to the other players as the 2 sides gear up for contract negotiations looming year end. In recent years in the runup to WWC 2015, USSF contractually obligated players to be in the domestic league to be available outside of FIFA windows so it can make its $$ on friendlies, which revenue for friendlies is now comparable to MNT’s ticket sale revenue for friendlies. So, unlike MNT players, WNT players couldn’t sign with Lyon or other clubs to make $ as pros, they had to stay local. A hyper-cynical take would be the Fed didn’t want Solo to go on maternity leave during her 6 month suspension, where she would be contractually entitled to return as a top tier player a year from now, but that would be hyper-cynical and I am sure no one took her tweets seriously that she is planning a family after the OLYs.

  5. Matt says:

    US soccer decision to suspend Hope is absurd. Over one word – Coward. She did not use foul language or any racist words. She might not have been the best role model but she has supported the game and team for the last 17years.
    I am a huge fan of US soccer and USWNT. This reaction by US Soccer shows their true character. Very disappointing.

  6. Scot says:

    I think that US Soccer needs to toughen up and allow their players to make statements from their heart if interviewed. If US Soccer had a concern with whether Hope would say something “not nice” then they should not allow her to be interviewed until she cools off after a match and coach her on what she is and is not allowed to say. US Soccer did not tell her what she could say, therefore, I think this is not a fair way of treating USWNT’s arguably best keeper of all time.

    US Soccer needs to keep her happy. They will need her in the next World Cup.

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