Hope Solo asks a fair question. And she makes a fair point.
“For 4 years,” she wrote Wednesday on Twitter, “media have run 1,000s of stories about me, helping spread false allegations that have been extremely damaging to me, my family and my career. Last week, the case was dismissed, yet most of those reporters have remained silent. Why?”
The silence has indeed been rather deafening. News of the end of Solo’s four-year legal odyssey arrived in the form of reports out of the state of Washington last week, yet they weren’t echoed in national outlets. The inattention to the latest development was odd, considering that during the 2015 World Cup, Solo’s legal troubles were arguably a bigger story than anything happening on the field. She didn’t speak to the international press during her entire competition, and considering how well she played for the U.S. Women’s National Team, she missed out on a lot of positive recognition for something she was never found guilty of. (The title match was the most-watched soccer game in American history.)
During that time, the sports world was reckoning with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, and so there was an effort to leave no allegation uncovered. We do have an ongoing domestic violence crisis in our country, and media attention to that is not only warranted but crucial. However, an allegation is exactly that – an allegation. And in some media circles, Solo was convicted.
Coverage of arrests always outpaces coverage of a case fizzling. We learned this just recently with the Reuben Foster situation. But in this instance, the ratio seems way out of whack. Solo can’t be blamed for her indignation.
Now that she is finally past this, she deserves to have her career reviewed in light of the charges being dropped. To be sure, she was not pristine in her behavior. It’s hard to argue against her suspension from the USWNT after husband Jerramy Stevens was arrested for driving the team van in 2015.
But some of the other controversies in her career brought criticism that was arguably overwrought or even unfair. In 2007, she said she would have won a World Cup Final match that starting goalkeeper Brianna Scurry lost. And in 2016, her contract was terminated after she called the Swedish Olympic team “a bunch of cowards.”
It’s hard to imagine a male athlete getting the same onslaught for either of those comments. Ripping a teammate is never becoming, but it’s rarely such an earthquake as it was with Solo. And it’s hard to imagine a men’s national team player getting fired for calling an opponent “cowards.”
“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,” U.S. Soccer’s president, Sunil Gulati, said in a statement at the time.
But those “past incidents” include the domestic violence allegations. They surely contributed significantly to that decision. It’s also important to note that Solo sought and received therapy before the 2015 World Cup, and she has not been in any sort of legal trouble since. She admirably led the fight for equal pay on behalf of her teammates after winning the World Cup, and her campaign for the presidency of U.S. Soccer this year was praised far more than it was panned.
We don’t know exactly what happened on the night Solo was arrested. She has never spoken at length about it, and it’s possible she never will. But we do know she has been cleared by the legal system, and we do know she has taken clear steps to improve herself since the night in question.
We also know that, on the field, she is one of the best soccer players the nation has ever produced. And we know that quite a few NFL players are lavished with praise despite past behavior that was worse than anything Solo did. If Solo deserved the same scrutiny as NFL players for allegations against her, she deserves the same opportunity for image rehab as many American football stars have gotten.
Opinions of Solo will never be anything but polarized. Some will see her as a philanthropist and a legendary athlete who speaks her truth. Others will see her as tarnished by an inability to control her words or her temper. But everyone who follows soccer is owed as much of the full picture of her career as possible.
Just because she is no longer an active player doesn’t mean news of her legal absolution is no longer important. And just because she wasn’t perfect along the way doesn’t mean she is as flawed as many seem to believe.
World Cup coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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• Group previews: A | B | C | D | E | F
• FC Yahoo Mixer: With U.S. out, who to root for?