Swimmer Ryan Lochte wasn’t the only Team USA Olympian on his worst behavior in Rio. U.S. Women’s National Team’s goalkeeper Hope Solo, 35, exhibited some poor sportswomanship following the team’s 1-1 draw, which resulted in a shocking loss to Sweden. A quarterfinal loss that saw the defending Olympic champions return to the United States empty handed.
By now, Solo’s comments referring to Silver medalist Sweden as “a bunch of cowards” have been well documented. And the fallout for Solo? Immense. But is the potential career-ending punishment too harsh for the 2015 World Cup champion?
Upon deliberation, U.S. Soccer determined banning Solo for six months and terminating her contract was the best course of action. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati stated, “The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.” Gulati’s statement further clarified that the punishment was also, “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.” Gulati is referencing Solo’s alleged domestic assault incident involving her nephew and sister for which charges were later dismissed; as well as a separate DUI incident involving her husband, former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens. U.S. Soccer suspended Solo 30-days following that incident.
Soon after U.S. Soccer’s announcement, Solo and her U.S. women’s national team player representative offered in part, “I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the right choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game.” The statement, which promised to appeal the decision, also accused the “excessive” punishment to be a violation of Solo’s first amendment right, as well as sexist. “We also question whether this action would have ever been taken against a male player or coach, who, in the heated moments, after a frustrating defeat, questioned the tactics of the opposing team.”
Most recently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was wildly criticized for his behavior following a disappointing Super Bowl loss, but that didn’t result in a punishment. And on the international stage, Copa America champion Cristiano Ronaldo was accused of arrogant criticism following Portugal’s 1-1 draw with Iceland during the same tournament. Like Newton, Ronaldo went unpunished. The statement may also be considered a subliminal shot at Ryan Lochte whose web of lies have yet to result in a punishment. However, it’s worth noting, Newton, Ronaldo nor Lochte’s actions accompanied the loaded baggage and off-the-field drama that follows Solo wherever she goes. Furthermore, Newton, Ronaldo, nor Lochte, to my knowledge, had been warned to behave or else.
Solo’s “sad” #sorrynotsorry egocentric statement and finger pointing are par for the course. The most decorated keeper in women’s professional soccer rarely takes accountability for her self-inflicted and controversial actions. Absent in her statement was an apology to her teammates, fans, U.S. Soccer, and country for poorly representing our nation as an official member of Team USA. No where in her statement did she express regret for overshadowing Sweden’s victory with her sour grapes attitude. Solo’s statement lacked responsibility and pompously indicated if given the opportunity, she’d do it all over again.
Throughout her career, Solo has been a one-woman wrecking ball; often assaulting others, teammates included, with her arrogance and selfishness. From publicly questioning then-coach Greg Ryan’s decision to bench Solo in a 2007 World Cup match for veteran Briana Scurry; to engaging in a war of words with 1999 World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, Solo’s reputation for being a sore loser has been etched in history, right along with her unparalleled soccer career as the best goalkeeper in the world. Her unrelenting passion for the game and ferocious willingness to break rank have been detrimental to her image, making her unpopular among teammates. When given the opportunity to support Solo through her latest firestorm, teammates Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, publicly disavowed Solo’s remarks. The lack of team support and rush of media backlash were the writings on the wall for Solo. Fair or unfair, the court of public opinion ruled they’d seen and heard enough from the poor sport. And U.S. Soccer concurred.
Solo’s well of endorsements, which Forbes once estimated to potentially be $10-12 million, has long dried up with Nike being the only major brand to remain loyal. And due to the cancellation of her U.S. Soccer contract, there’s no guarantee that her $72,000 salary will be reinstated once her three month severance and six month suspension conclude. Until further notice, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), a U.S. Soccer entity, will continue to honor Solo’s $54,000 base salary with Seattle Reign FC. But with the NWSL’s marginal following, the unfavorable combination of Solo’s age, diminishing talent, explosive reputation, and the next big international competition — 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup — being three years away, not only have we’ve seen the best of Solo, even if she’s been at her worst, but we’ve also seen the last of her.
During a 2015 espnW feature, Solo displayed rare vulnerability. It was said that Solo viewed that year’s World Cup “as her last chance at redemption. Not of her game, but of the impression she wants to leave behind.” At the time, Solo added, “I just want to win the World Cup. I want to leave it all out there. No regrets.”
After exiting Brazil in disgrace, what’s next for Solo?
Well for starters, learning how to live with regrets.