Hope Solo says she was sexually assaulted by Sepp Blatter
Longtime U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Hope Solo says then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter sexually assaulted her in 2013.
Speaking to Expresso while in Portugal, Solo said Blatter groped her at the Ballon d'Or award ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.
"I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass," Solo told Expresso. "... It was at the Ballon d'Or one year, right before I went on stage."
"It's been normalized," Solo said of such behavior.
Blatter's representative called the allegation "ridiculous" in a statement to Expresso and The Guardian.
Solo and Blatter walked onstage together in January 2013 to present the 2012 women's world player of the year award to Solo's U.S. teammate Abby Wambach.
"I was in shock and completely thrown off," Solo told The Guardian on Friday, expanding on what she had told Expresso. "I had to quickly pull myself together to present my teammate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby."
Solo said she never saw Blatter again after the ceremony.
"That was kind of bad," she told Expresso. "I didn't get to tell him directly. 'Don't ever touch me!' That's the way I've always handled things. Directly."
Blatter, now 81, was banned by FIFA in 2015 over a conflict of interest regarding a 2 million Swiss franc (£1.35 million) payment made to UEFA president Michel Platini. Blatter had served as FIFA president since 1998.
He also has a history of what many consider to be sexist behavior concerning the women's game. In 2004, Blatter was criticized for saying women should consider wearing more revealing uniforms, such as tighter shorts, to bring more attention to the game.
U.S. forward Alex Morgan has said that Blatter failed to recognize her at the annual award event in 2012, even though she was one of three nominees for the women's player of the year.
Last month, Solo posted a message on Instagram in support of women who were coming forward in the wake of revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment. "It takes tremendous courage to stand up against this type of oppression and intimidation," Solo wrote.
On Friday, she reiterated to The Guardian that more must be done to combat sexual harassment in women's sports.
"While in this instance it was Sepp Blatter, who was the most powerful man in football at the time, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior are rampant at every level in women's sport, and it needs to stop," she said.
Solo, who won the 2015 World Cup with the U.S., has been sidelined by an injury and has not played for the national team since a six-month suspension for criticizing opponent Sweden at the Olympics in 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.