If the U.S. is serious that domestic violence is unacceptable, even when perpetrated by the heroes we idolize, then there is absolutely no way we should be looking the other way when it comes to U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo.
In early June, ESPN’s Outside the Lines aired an interview with Solo’s sister, Teresa Obert, about the incident that occurred a year ago. Obert’s story differs dramatically from the one that Solo keeps getting the chance to repeat. Solo’s story centers on herself as victim. She claims her nephew, who is 6 foot 8 and weighs 270 pounds, was the one who hit her on the head with a broomstick and then threatened her with a gun. She claims that she was severely concussed from the incident, although no medical evidence has yet confirmed that conclusion.
Obert claimed that Solo arrived to her home drunk and upset with her husband. Obert says that after more drinking, Solo began insulting her 17-year-old nephew, and then he claims she lunged at him, trying to hit him in the face. She connected multiple times, the boy says, and then he subdued her briefly but she grabbed his hair and began “repeatedly” slamming his head into the concrete. Obert alleges that when she tried to intervene, Solo punched her “multiple times.” At this point Obert’s son called 911, although the melee continued until police arrived.
As is often the case, when the police arrived all parties involved looked visibly upset. Officer Elizabeth Voss observed physical injuries on Obert’s son and that his clothing was in disarray. The other officer, Chuck Pierce, recorded similar injuries on Obert. Sergeant Phil Goguen, the first on the scene, noted that Solo’s breath smelled of liquor and she was slurring. She claimed she was protecting herself but refused to provide any specifics. The report notes that Goguen did not observe any injuries on Solo. Given all of the above, Goguen determined, per state law, that Solo was the primary aggressor.
Her poor behavior did not stop there. When she was being booked at the Kirkland Jail Solo allegedly yelled profanities at the officers involved and repeatedly harassed the officers, making fun of them because, as she allegedly put it, her necklace was worth more than their salaries. She was then transferred to another facility and in the process continued to abuse the officers involved.
After the incident, Obert obtained a temporary restraining order against Solo and then a permanent order was issued in January 2015.
Just like the NFL with the Ray Rice incident (until it got too big to ignore), U.S Soccer was largely silent on the case. Three months later it released a statement saying that Solo was cleared to play. In their investigation, Outside the Lines found no evidence to suggest that U.S Soccer did any kind of investigation into the incident…no records that it contacted the prosecutors, police, or Obert and her son, nor did it request the police records of the case.
Sure, there are inconsistencies in Obert and her son’s stories, but that too is not unusual. Incidents of domestic violence are often a blur, as victims are more concerned with protecting themselves than recording the specifics. On January 13, 2015, a judge dismissed the case on procedural grounds, not based on evidence, and on February 9 the prosecutor’s office announced it was appealing the decision, which Prosecutor Tamara McElyea said was extremely rare.
Sports journalist Keith Olbermann has been most vehement in his calls for U.S Soccer to suspend Solo, noting that not only is she supposed to be a role model, but that because she is representing the U.S. she, her coach, Jill Ellis, and U.S. Soccer President Sanil Gulati are also representing each of us.
But of course she has not been suspended, as the U.S Women’s Soccer team is performing well in the World Cup and Solo is considered by many to be the hero of those victories. Most media outlets are contributing to the free pass Solo has received, calling the last year a “roller coaster” instead of providing specifics. Despite her many embarrassing debacles, Solo was even named team captain. Coach Ellis even had the audacity to claim that most of the players have no idea that the incident even happened and that those who do have “moved on.” And, of course, Nike continued her endorsement package, which is odd, given that it separated with Rice who was actually cleared of all charges while those against Solo are pending.
While it is up to the court’s to determine whether Solo is guilty of domestic violence, U.S. Soccer and Nike can and should engage in a serious investigation of her behavior. Her gender and her gifts as a goalkeeper should not be a factor. Sadly, both seem to be.
Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice. firstname.lastname@example.org