For my first post here at Riverside Green, I’m going to talk about something that I’m pretty sure has never been mentioned here (that being sports) and something that absolutely has been. It all has to do with the sublimely talented and (let’s not deny it, because it matters) physically attractive goalkeeper for the United States National Women’s Soccer team, Hope Solo.
Solo has been both a blessing and a curse for US Soccer since she arrived on the scene. In 2007, Solo made huge waves by blasting her coach and her teammate, Briana Scurry, when she was benched for a semi-final World Cup game against Brazil in favor of Scurry. The US lost that game, 4-0, and Solo was candid about her response to the benching.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves,” Solo said. “And the fact of the matter is, it’s not 2004 anymore. … It’s 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can’t live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago.”
At the time, it was a bizarre coaching decision that was compounded by several societal issues. Scurry was black. Solo was white. Solo was gifted with supermodel-quality looks. Scurry was not. Solo was alternately praised for her candor and blasted for being a wretched teammate. Solo had not surrendered a goal in the previous 300 minutes. Scurry surrendered four in ninety.
Scurry disappeared from the American consciousness after that game. Solo went on to become a household name. She won the Golden Glove award in the 2011 World Cup as the best goalkeeper of the tournament. She led the US to Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012. It was no longer debatable that Solo was the best female keeper in the world.
But it was off of the pitch where Solo became a star. In a game where many of the biggest stars are decidedly masculine in appearance, Solo became a sex symbol, giving men everywhere a reason to tune in to the women’s game. She performed on “Dancing With The Stars” . She posed nude in the ESPN Body Issue (I’m not linking them for NSFW purposes, but a single Bing/Google search will help you find all of that and then some). People who couldn’t identify Abby Wambach in a lineup absolutely knew who Solo was.
But Solo’s 2007 tirade turned out to have been a bit of foreshadowing into a dark side of her personality. Solo was involved in an altercation with her then-fiancee’, former NFL player Jerramy Stevens, in 2012, but neither side was charged. in 2014, Solo was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault against her half-sister and nephew. Solo claimed she was defending herself against an attack from her nephew, who was 6’9″ and 280 pounds. The charges were dropped in January of 2015, with the courts claiming there was insufficient cooperation from the witnesses.
However, the official police report shows a violent, angry side of Solo. You can read it yourself if you like, but highlights include Solo telling an arresting officer, “You’re such a bitch. You’re scared of me, because you know that if these handcuffs were off, I’d kick your ass.” Despite all of this, Solo was not suspended or reprimanded by US Soccer. And there’s no doubt that they needed her yesterday in their opening-round win over Australia, when Solo made multiple miraculous saves. Seriously, click that link. She’s a beast.
All sorts of people are suggesting that there’s a double standard here, that we’d be burying a male athlete who acted in such a manner. And they’re right, we probably would be. There’s a part of us that doesn’t really mind that Hope Solo beat the hell out of her 6’9″ nephew. Secretly, maybe we even think it’s interesting or compelling. I mean, who doesn’t love a hot crazy girl?
But, in reality, Solo is excused for her behavior because she’s the best in the world at what she does. America hasn’t won the World Cup since Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey in 1999. That’s sixteen long, long years. And if we need a woman who occasionally beats the hell out of her family to win, well…then we need her. In fact, one could argue that with US Soccer making the decision to completely ignore Solo’s domestic violence issues, it means that women’s sports have finally arrived. I mean, if the NFL can willfully ignore a video of one of its stars cold-cocking a woman in an Atlantic City casino, why can’t the USWNT do the same for its mega-star?
I’m only being mildly facetious here. If great men are excused for their transgressions, then shouldn’t great women be excused, also? We can’t claim male privilege here. We can only claim greatness privilege. Solo is, without question, great. So we’ve extended her the same privilege that we’ve extended Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy…the list goes on. Maybe this is a great day for women’s rights.
It’s a complicated case, one without a definitive answer. As long as Solo returns America to the top of the women’s soccer pyramid, I suspect that she’ll continue to have clean sheets—both on the field and on her criminal record.