US Soccer stands by Solo stance; Media backlash keeps on coming

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US Soccer is standing by its decision to let goalkeeper Hope Solo play while awaiting trial on domestic abuse charges, despite fresh criticism in light of the National Football League’s abuse scandals of the past weeks.

Domestic abuse has been at the forefront of the news since video surfaced of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee-now-wife in an elevator, and the ensuing furor at the NFL’s bungling of that case and some others, with discipline in the Rice and Adrian Peterson cases — and others — seeming to be based on public opinion more than anything else (and that Roger Goodell press conference? Ugh).

The NFL headlines, though, had some writers pondering why Solo continued to play on despite her charges.

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Those charges are a pair of fourth-degree domestic violence charges stemming from a summer incident involving her sister-in-law and 17-year-old nephew. Solo’s lawyer has said she will be proven not guilty, and alleges that she was hit over the head with a broom handle during the altercation. Her nephew claims she showed up to a party drunk and fist-fought him, allegedly punching his mom in the face when she intervened.

And while it’s dangerous to mix the NFL and Solo stories simply because they are domestic abuse charges, it’s cause US Soccer and Nike to respond.

From the Associated Press:

“U.S. Soccer takes the issue of domestic violence very seriously. From the beginning, we considered the information available and have taken a deliberate and thoughtful approach regarding Hope Solo’s status with the national team,” [US Soccer president Sunil] Gulati said in a statement. “Based on that information, U.S. Soccer stands by our decision to allow her to participate with the team as the legal process unfolds. If new information becomes available we will carefully consider it.”

Gulati’s statement comes after U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun said he was disturbed by the charges against Solo. But in a statement to USA Today he did not say whether he believes she should face disciplinary action, such as suspension, before the matter plays out in court.

“The allegations involving Ms. Solo are disturbing and are inconsistent with our expectations of Olympians,” Blackmun said. ” We have had discussions with U.S. Soccer and fully expect them to take action if it is determined that the allegations are true.”

Nike also issued a statement Monday standing by Solo, pending her legal situation.

“We are aware of the allegations and that Hope Solo has pled ‘not guilty’ to the charges. Hope remains a Nike athlete and we will continue to monitor the situation,” the statement said.

Last week I linked to a Washington Post column on whether it was fair that Solo played on, and said that the discussion itself was fair play regardless of opinion. In my view, Solo could stay on the field, but was that right? It’s innocent until proven guilty, after all, and how we frame this discussion can be crucial. For example, if I choose to use a featured photo of Solo playing or presenting an award rather than her in court — or vice versa — it can play a role in how the casual reader digests the information.

source: Getty Images source: Getty Imagessource: AP

Yet on the other side of the discussion, would I reconsider whether I believed the goalkeeper should play if this was an issue regarding a men’s player allegedly beating up his sister-in-law and teenage nephew? And should that matter in a world where men in powerful sporting positions often catch plenty of breaks?

We live in a very muddled, biased world and it’s been extremely interesting to watch as some bury themselves so far on either extreme of the line that it will be impossible to find their way back in any reasonable manner. Surely the majority of us would love to see the Solo incident either:

A) proven to be overblown

-or-

B) rise above any false equivalency and be treated as it is.

But it’s important to note two things, one that each extreme of the debate needs to know. One, the sheer number of “I’d let her beat me up” lines coming from the audience due to Solo’s nature as a powerful, attractive female athlete detract from the discussion. And two, if Solo is proven to have done some horrible things that led to her getting arrested and her employers/sponsors didn’t do their due diligence, in part because of point one, then a grain of salt would’ve been pretty cool all along from the fervent supporters who are backing an underlying belief rather than observing the incident itself.

If you’re in the “I can’t wait for this story to be resolved and over” crowd, good luck. ESPN’s Keith Olbermann weighed in recently. At the end of a segment on the NFL’s abuse failures, he lit into US Soccer and the Seattle Reign. In the case of the former, for giving her the captain’s armband while awaiting trial. And while some on the fringes will immediately reject his points because he’s neither a woman nor a soccer player, he too gives us something new to discuss.

Let’s face facts: nothing about this is easy, but at least one of society’s most difficult and oft-hidden issues is in the crosshairs.