Those who know me in real life or even follow me on social media are no doubt aware that I’m not exactly a follower of or expert on the subject of soccer. (And no, Europeans, it’s not “football.” That’s a real sport.) Going further than that, I’ll confess that my familiarity with US women’s soccer star Hope Solo has also been mostly limited to seeing a few headlines over the years. For the most part, all I could really tell you definitively was that she turned out to not be related to Han Solo at all and she wasn’t the woman who once took her shirt off after a big game as part of a a lady’s undergarment commercial.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I was still completely shocked when I found myself reading a soccer related story this week dealing with Hope Solo being suspended from her sport for six months. The reason? She said something offensive to another Olympic team. (Fox News)
U.S. women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo was suspended Wednesday for six months by U.S. Soccer for disparaging comments about Sweden following the Americans’ early departure from the Rio Olympics.
Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for focusing on defense rather than attacking the three-time defending champion U.S. team. Sweden ousted the U.S. 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw in a quarterfinal match.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Solo’s comments were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.”
So one of the best players on the US team has been booted from the league for the equivalent of more than an entire football season for saying something “offensive.” Here’s the actual quote which has everyone up in arms.
“I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team,” she said. “But I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that.”
It’s worth pointing out that Solo’s complaint about the Swedes is nonsense to anyone who follows professional sports of any type. As long as you stay within the bounds of the established rules, your strategy is your own and your goal is to win. So the Swedish team held back and played a defensive game. So what? It worked. A lot of people criticized Muhammad Ali for his “rope a dope” strategy against George Foreman back in the day, but he was still the victor of the Rumble in the Jungle. The Swedes won fair and square and that’s the end of it.
But for Solo to be suspended over criticizing their tactics is just insane. Have the U.S. Soccer management team ever watched a post-game NFL interview in the locker rooms on ESPN? Calling the other team a bunch of cowards wouldn’t make the fifteenth paragraph of quotes in the resulting coverage. We have football players punching each other out. They’re high tension people in a brutally competitive sport where hyperbole and aggression rule the day. I don’t know how things operate in the world of kickball, but I assume they’re a competitive bunch as well.
I somehow doubt that U.S. Soccer is going to back down from this decision but it would be nice if they gave it a second look. Are we really such a bunch of lightweights that a comment like that in the heat of the moment following a big game is cause for suspending somebody’s career? And for six months? The sales of fainting couches must be going through the roof these days.