The U.S. Women’s Soccer team is a real contender in the Women’s World Cup this year. Hope Solo is the goalie for the team. Solo tended goal, and tended it well, for the U.S. in the 2007 and 2011 World Cup, and even won the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper in 2011. It has been widely recognized that Solo is the best goalkeeper in women’s soccer.
So soccer-loving kids all over the country should be tuning into the World Cup idolizing Solo and wanting to be like her when they grow up, right? Well, it’s complicated. While she is known for being one of the best goalies to ever play the sport, Solo’s reputation is clouded with very ugly allegations of domestic violence.
On June 21, 2014, Solo was arrested on two counts of domestic violence by the Kirkland, Washington police, in connection with an altercation involving her half-sister, Teresa Obert, and Obert’s 17-year-old son (Solo’s nephew). In the wake of news breaking of domestic violence allegations, Solo went on a sort of press tour, telling her side of the story and convincing a lot of people that she would be vindicated in court.
However, in the past few weeks, ESPN's Outside the Lines was able to gain access to deposition transcripts and police reports that were otherwise sealed from the public. What they reveal starkly contrasts Solo’s description of the incident.
Two Different Stories
Obert and her son claim that on June 20, 2014 Solo showed up to their home drunk, insisting on looking for her husband, NFL player Jerramy Stevens, with whom she had been fighting. They convinced her to come inside the house in hopes of calming her down.
While in the home, Solo began arguing with her nephew, with whom she had a tense relationship anyways. Apparently, the nephew, who was 6 foot 9 inches and 270 pounds at the time, was defending his performance in the local theater by telling Solo that it required “having an athletic state of mind.” Solo told him he was too “fat, unathletic and crazy” to ever be an athlete. He told her that she needed to “get her c--- face out of the house.” Obert asked Solo to leave.
Instead, Solo followed the nephew into the garage, both hurling insults at the other. Then the physical violence ensued. Solo charged at the nephew but he was able to subdue her. Believing that Solo had calmed down, Obert instructed her son to let Solo go so she could leave. But when he let her go, she grabbed his hair, pulled his head down and started punching him in the face repeatedly. He alleges that she jumped on top of him and bashed his head into the cement.
Obert claims that she pulled Solo off of her son and Solo immediately began punching her in the face. Once freed, the nephew called the police, shouting “Hope Solo is going psychotic; she’s f—king beating people up, and we need help.” The nephew grabbed a broken BB gun and pointed it at Solo to get her to leave. Instead of leaving, Solo followed the nephew prompting him to hit her over the head with a broomstick. Then officers arrived. After hearing all sides of the story and examining the parties, the officers arrested Solo.
Outside the Lines reports that Solo accosted officers, telling one “you’re such a b----. You’re scared of me because you know that if the handcuffs were off, I’d kick your ass.” She even told one officer that her necklace was worth more than what he earned in a year, when she was told to take the necklace off.
Case Dismissed Under Controversy
The case against Solo was dismissed on procedural grounds, which is complicated, but the city has appealed, which is something that rarely happens. The appeal will not be decided before the conclusion of the World Cup.
There has been a tremendous outcry from the public, comparing Solo to Ray Rice of the NFL, calling for her to be disciplined by the U.S. Soccer Federation, including barring her from participation in the World Cup. Connecticut State Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the Federation demanding that Solo’s participation in the World Cup be reconsidered.
The Federation responded, defending its investigation of the incident and defending its decision to allow Solo to play. It appears that the Federation believes that Solo should not be punished unless and until there is a final decision against her. Specifically, the Federation wrote:
“Under the applicable statutes, bylaws, regulations and agreements, the Federation could not then and cannot now simply prevent an otherwise qualified athlete from participating in an international competition like the Women’s World Cup. Among other things, before denying an athlete the opportunity to participate in such competitions, an athlete like Ms. Solo would be entitled to a fair hearing process including notice of the charges and the right to call and confront witnesses as well as, in certain circumstances, the right to an appeal process.”
I have not analyzed these standards for myself, but don't doubt the representations made by the Federation.
Apparently, the Federation takes an “innocent until proven guilty” approach, in stark contrast to say, the NFL, where players typically appeal their punishments after the fact. Take Adrian Peterson, for example. The NFL suspended him the moment he was indicted for child abuse charges. He missed 8 games before there was any adjudication in the case (when he pleaded no contest on November 4). Here, it looks like the Federation is taking a “wait and see” approach.
Both the NFL and the Federation are private organizations that are allowed to set their own standards for discipline of players for conduct off the field. The interesting question is which method that we, as a society, think is better, especially in connection to how we treat professional athletes.