The name means a few different things to many different people. Some know her for beauty, such as when she posed semi-nude for the [Note: click the following 2 links at your own discretion]. 2011 edition of ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue.” Others know her from her time on season 13 of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” where she made it to the semifinal round. She’s also appeared on talk shows with Piers Morgan, Ellen Degeneres and Chelsea Handler. However, the thing that brought her to national recongnition is her time as the US Women’s National Team goalkeeper, beginning in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her first introduction to the Nation was a candid post-match interview, regarding then coach Greg Ryan, regarding his benching of her after the first four games (all shutouts), in exchange for the veteran Brianna Scurry. That interview gained Solo a reputation as a malcontent and a diva, although many in the soccer world agreed with her sentiments. That diva mentality has not been helped by her off-the-field incidents. There have been several incidents involving Solo, including assault charges stemming from a domestic incident with her nephew and half-sister. After which, there was no public outrage and suspension of her career, which prompted many to wonder why there was a double standard (which I don’t necessarily agree with). This was especially concerning, as this incident was just after the revelation of the Ray Rice elevator video had gone public, as well as the case of Adrian Peterson dominating the national narrative.
In her most recent incident, Hope Solo was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her impaired husband, former NFL player Jeramy Stevens. Then the news broke today that the vehicle Stevens was driving was a USWNT vehicle, which appears to be the reason that Solo was suspended 30 days from the National Team’s World Cup preparations.
Solo isn’t the first professional athlete to get in trouble. Athletes are human, therefore they will make mistakes. As espnW points out, Solo is complicated. When male athletes make mistakes, there is often criticism of the punishment they receive from their teams and leagues. However, the public outcry is traditionally a loud roar, compared to the “whisper” of discourse that came from the public in regards to Solo. I have no problem with the public’s lack of ire towards the issues Solo has faced.
So what is the best way to even the “playing field” when it comes to the public reaction of athlete and celebrity missteps? How should we respond to someone famous stumbling? My best thought is that major governing bodies, such as FIFA, CONCACAF (North America’s governing soccer body), FIBA, etc., should give more leeway to female athletes. On the average (and its not even close), female athletes make less money than their male counterparts in similar/same sports. While those with endorsement deals can accumulate more money, the average female professional athlete does not have the same financial “windfall” as their male counterparts. Suspending them does not help their cause, in my opinion. To help Solo, and other female athletes that may find themselves in sticky situations, the leagues and federations, in this case US Soccer should not suspend Solo (without pay). I know that she had her impaired husband driving essentially her “boss'” car. This is not a good look. However, the USWNT is getting publicity, which it could use. Barring some extremely serious event or occurence, the leagues should act in the best interest of the players. I say that knowing that the athletes themselves should act in their own best interests, and avoid getting in trouble. I just think that the loss in pay, exposure time and Let’s say hypothetically that the Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins gets arrested for disorderly conduct. The WNBA and Shock should do their best PR job of sweeping it aside. It isn’t that money should make you care more about the “cleanliness” of the league or sport, however when a league is cash-strapped and trying to keep and maintain relevance, it may be helpful to overlook some discipline issues.
I know this sounds amoral and wrong, but I think that in the grand scheme of helping the players not only keep their livelihood and cash, but help to balance out the large pay gaps that female athletes encounter. We all know that not every male athlete’s shortcomings see the light of day. But most of these men participate in leagues that aren’t going anywhere. As we’ve seen with the ABL, NWBL, WUSA, et. al., not all of the women’s leagues can survive.
Perhaps Hope Solo’s complexity will help to evolve women’s sports into more “PR savvy” leagues, that help to brush incidents under the rug. Then maybe the double standard that many feel about Hope Solo can truly be substantiated.