So Hope Solo got suspended. Again. This time the penalty is six months off the pitch. More than that, though — her contract has been dropped by the U.S. Women’s National Team. This isn’t entirely surprising given that the women’s team won’t face another big tournament for three years, and by that time Solo will be 38-years-old. What it all means is that Solo has likely played her last match as the powerhouse goalkeeper with the U.S. The reason, according to U.S. Soccer: “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles,” which translates roughly into, “No, you can’t call the Swedes ‘cowards’ and publicly bemoan that the better team didn’t win when you get beaten by them at the Olympics.”
But, well — why not? Sure, it’s not nice or sportsmanlike to slag on the team that beats you. But they’re not children and they’re not playing Solo on the local optimist field next to the elementary school. The USWNT is ferocious as hell — as are, I’d have to imagine, the teams they compete against — so maybe demanding that they always be 100% gracious in defeat is and always was a fool’s errand. And here’s the thing: Hope Solo knows this. She knows that all that aggression and fury she keeps inside of her, what’s made her an object of some notoriety for the trouble she seems to get into, is also what makes her a goddamn monster on a soccer field. Her statement tonight upon learning she was suspended reflects that perfectly.
Hope Solo's response to SI on her suspension. pic.twitter.com/Y5E5KcrECo
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 25, 2016
Maybe you think she should be more humble here, but, honestly, this is a damn awesome response. There’s no phony contrition. No bullshit apology or act of self-flagellation. No Septa Unella following sternly behind her with a bell. Solo is what she’s always been: a bit of a trainwreck off the field who knows that translates into pure molten fire on the field and who doesn’t give a fuck what you think. She’s apologized for her domestic violence arrest — as she should — and she’s taken her lumps for being rough-and-tumble and occasionally a genuine problem child for the team. But pulling a Tanner Boyle and telling the Swedes to shove their trophy up their asses — well, that’s just who she is.
Now, sure, we’re the big, bad U.S., the First World empire who at all times is expected to carry itself throughout a supposedly less fortunate world with grace and humility. But Solo isn’t the face of the entire club. She’s a lone competitor and she’s entitled to her opinion, even if it’s brash and obnoxious. (The same thing would be true were one of the many players on one of the many teams the USWNT has beaten to lose her cool, as so many doubtlessly have off-camera.) Certainly, the issue with Hope Solo is that her sins are cumulative at this point and the U.S. is now in the perfect position in their schedule to get rid of her and start anew.
But would we even be having this kind of conversation if this were a male professional sports team we were talking about and Hope Solo were a man? Jesus, Ryan Lochte basically insulted an entire country with a largely — though not entirely — untrue story about getting robbed in Rio and that asshole will be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars. Roger Goddell had to be threatened by an online mob before he took any real action against Ray Rice, and that guy knocked his girlfriend out cold in an elevator. Sure, the USWNT has a reputation for class and it is, in fact, a national team competing on the world stage, but we can’t accept that a squad that truly celebrates diversity also celebrates diversity of personalities?
Hope Solo may be gone from the U.S. Women’s National Team. But she helped make it what it was for so long. And while it’ll surely continue to be an excellent team, it’s going to be a hell of a lot less interesting without her.