Legendary U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo is the source of yet more controversy surrounding domestic violence policies in the sports world, as U.S. Soccer will let her play despite pending charges of fourth-degree domestic violence. On June 21, Solo allegedly got in a fist fight with her 17-year-old nephew, and punched her sister-in-law in the face when she tried to break up the fight. Solo has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and her trial will be held on Nov. 4. If found guilty, Solo could face up to six months in jail.
The National Football League has recently experienced two high-profile domestic violence cases, one regarding Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and another regarding Ravens running back Ray Rice. When a video of Rice’s act surfaced earlier this month, the NFL was hit with scrutiny for its two-game suspension of the Pro Bowler. The NFL responded by suspending Rice for the entire season. Similarly, when Peterson’s case showed up shortly after, he was immediately deactivated by the Vikings. Moral of the story? The NFL got the point.
Now, with the announcement that U.S. Soccer will let Solo play, the world of soccer has just popped a squat onto the hot seat.
While I understand that the U.S. team wants to confirm the allegations before they punish Solo, the non-action is surprising in light of the recent NFL situations. Two issues come to mind regarding this lack of punishment for Solo.
First, this is a matter of policy in U.S. Soccer. The NFL has responded to the outrage at the Rice situation with newly crafted rules regarding domestic violence in the league. One would think, when the largest professional sports league in the country makes a change like this, the rest of the professional sports world would hop on board. But by this failure to act at all on this situation, whether intended or not, U.S. Soccer has indicated that they do not feel as strongly about domestic violence as the NFL now suddenly does.
Second, this is a matter of gender equality in our nation. In an age pushing towards greater societal status for women, in my eyes this is a step backwards. According to the allegations, Solo punched her sister-in-law in the face, just like Rice did to his wife. With that being said, there was video evidence of Rice’s outburst, and Solo has yet to be found guilty. But Peterson had not been found guilty of child abuse charges when the Minnesota Vikings deactivated him indefinitely. While the Peterson situation is unique in that Peterson chose to take paid leave to deal with the situation and avoid distracting the team, Solo’s supposed act was much more violent than Peterson’s tree branch spanking.
To me, this perpetuates the sad truth that our society as a whole still sees women differently than men. The main issue here is that Solo is continuing to play soccer after supposedly landing a punch in the face of her in-law, while Peterson himself decided to take leave from football after his violent punishment. The bottom line is that U.S. Soccer did not exercise good judgment when it chose to let Solo play.
The NFL has realized how seriously society takes domestic violence, and despite all of the news the league has made, the women’s national team has not received the memo. I like Solo just as much as anybody, believe me, but all athletes should be treated equally. Solo should have received some kind of punishment, if not at least a short suspension, but this is a case of stardom helping an athlete out. While I think that gender played a large role in the grand scheme of this situation, being named Hope Solo won’t hurt her case.
After the happenings in the NFL in this past month, it seems that the sports world will no longer turn their heads on athlete crime, especially domestic violence. Hopefully, the U.S. soccer team will make the right call in this scenario, otherwise, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati may being getting coffee with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell some time very soon.
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