Kate Fagan: Why I Feel Bad About My Last Hope Solo Column
On Friday, I wrote this column: Why Hope Solo should be suspended -- Immediately.
Almost since the moment it went live, I've felt uneasy. Not about whether Hope Solo should be suspended from playing for the women's national team right away. She shouldn't be on the field, period. I stand by that opinion.
Solo is facing domestic assault charges stemming from a late-night incident on June 21 involving her 17-year-old nephew and her half-sister (the boy's mother). I believe U.S. Soccer should bench Solo immediately, until she resolves her legal issues (her trial begins in November). U.S. Soccer doesn't need to cut her from the team; just put her on a leave of absence until she is either convicted or cleared of charges. That's a standard option exercised by many employers when employees face similar situations. Definitely do not start her or continue honoring her for her on-field accomplishments.
And yet I still feel uncomfortable. Why?
Because I've seen too many people take my column to mean that it's OK to equate Hope Solo with Ray Rice. That takeaway isn't just false, it's potentially dangerous. I feel like my column allowed too many people to reach a quick and easy resolution to a problem that is incredibly complex. (See? Women commit domestic violence, too, so let's just call it even and get back to watching some football!)
We are in the middle of a massive course correction within sports -- within American culture -- in which off-field incidents of intimate partner violence and child abuse, once all but ignored, are finally being addressed. We are, at long last, having a conversation that we should have had all along. A few months ago, the outcry over off-field violence by athletes was virtually nonexistent -- in fact, it was deafeningly silent -- and into that space came the incendiary Ray Rice video. Everything promptly exploded.
And here's another point I'd like to highlight: I think Solo should be suspended right now, so we don't spend another minute talking about her.
Because what's concerning about the dialogue around Hope Solo is this: It's diverting us from the core issue. It feels like a distraction tactic to take the pressure off male athletes, off men in general, off the social epidemic of domestic violence.
Let me put it more simply. Discussing Hope Solo is a red herring. The storyline seems to exist as a coda -- the false reason, the false example -- of why nothing should change. Every minute we spend talking about Solo is a minute we could have spent addressing one of the real problems: the institutional sexism that allows hypermasculine cultures like the NFL (and college football) to become almost untouchable, to believe they can (and should) police themselves.
For the past 10 days, the national media has discussed domestic violence more than at any other time in history. And for good reason, as the NFL's failure to take domestic violence seriously isn't an isolated reality. When a reported 56 players have been arrested for domestic violence on commissioner Roger Goodell's watch, and nearly 85 percent of domestic violence victims every year in America are women, the NFL is merely a reflection of the rest of society, in which most cases of domestic violence will go unreported and under-punished.
So exactly what does Hope Solo's story represent? What epidemic does she embody that needs addressing in the rest of our culture -- sports or otherwise?
Does U.S. Soccer have a history of domestic violence allegations? (No.) Do female athletes have a high rate of off-the-field incidents? (No.) Do we cover in the media and financially reward female athletes in a way that justifies this equivalent measure of scrutiny? (No.) Does Hope Solo need to be held accountable for her own conduct and domestic violence allegations? (Yes.)
The reason the "NFL and Domestic Violence" story is so important is because it's holding up a mirror to the rest of society. We can get somewhere better by examining the NFL's failures.
Every minute we spend talking about Hope Solo is a minute spent walking down a dead end.
Not at all where we need to go.