KIRKLAND, Wash. -- If Hope Solo played football rather than women's soccer, her career probably wouldn't be in jeopardy.
After all, her husband, former tight end Jerramy Stevens, assaulted another student in 1998 as a senior in high school yet still received a scholarship to play at the University of Washington. At the UW, he was arrested in 2000 in the investigation of an alleged rape -- he was never charged, but several years later his attorney made an out-of-court civil settlement with the accuser -- and drove his truck into a retirement home in 2001. Yet, he stayed on the team and was drafted by the NFL, playing 202 games from 2002 to 2010 despite two DUIs.
Two years ago, Stevens also was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence against Solo during a party at a residence. Charges eventually were dropped because of insufficient evidence -- and either there was no violence against her or she, too, excused this behavior because she married him the next day.
Now, Solo faces her own charges. She was arrested this weekend in this Seattle suburb and charged with domestic violence for allegedly punching her half-sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo pleaded not guilty Monday and was released on her own recognizance with a trial pending in August. She is not allowed to have contact with her half-sister or nephew, or drink alcohol, before then.
Neither Solo nor her lawyer -- who says Solo was the victim in the incident -- took questions from reporters at the courthouse, but we surely will hear from them at the trial. In the meantime, I find it interesting that we seem to be more aghast over such alleged behavior by Solo than by male athletes. I'll go into what should be done about that in a bit, but first some important background from the messy scene described in the police report.
An officer responded to a 911 call late Friday night that a female was "going crazy and hitting people." According to the statements by the nephew in the report, Solo arrived at her half-sister's house upset that Stevens had refused to take her to the airport for a flight.
Also according to the report, Solo was under the influence of a considerable amount of wine and became upset with her nephew when she thought he spoke ill of her. The conversation settled down momentarily, and they started talking about the nephew's interest in acting. He said that to be a good actor, you needed an "athletic state of mind." Solo responded that he would never be athletic because, according to the report, he was "too fat and overweight and crazy to ever be an athlete." The nephew responded by telling Solo to get her "c--t face" out of the house.
One thing led to another, and, after the nephew accused Solo's family and father as being the crazy ones, she allegedly charged and punched him. According to the report, they grappled and Solo wound up punching her nephew and half-sister several times. Attempting to stop Solo from assaulting his mother, the report states, the nephew broke a broom over Solo's head. When that didn't stop her, he grabbed a broken BB gun from somewhere, pointed it at Solo and told her to leave.
When the police arrived, they found the nephew bleeding from one ear and his jaw and nose reddened, and Solo's half-sister's left cheek was swelling. The officer reported that he saw no injuries to Solo and that she refused to allow him to inspect her head for injuries. She insisted she did not assault anyone.
No, it's not a pretty story. And, while the men's World Cup is playing, here is the question the soccer world must ask: What should be done with Solo, who is as skilled at finding the national spotlight -- often under negative circumstances, from her comments after getting benched in the 2007 Women's World Cup to a Twitter rant directed at former soccer star Brandi Chastain during the 2012 Olympics -- as she is at stopping shots on goal?
The U.S. national team has no comment yet, which is understandable. We all must wait for the outcome of the trial. If convicted, however, Solo should be dropped from the U.S. team. As great a player as she is, a person guilty of domestic violence should not be allowed to represent our country so prominently on the world stage.
What her pro team, Seattle Reign FC, would choose to do in that case would be up to the team, the same way it is up to non-national teams when male athletes are arrested. Too often, they remain with the team and are cheered as long as they perform well (see Ray Rice and Greg Hardy). If not, they get booed out of town, where they can make money for another team. It isn't the crime that is important -- it's whether they help the local team win.
This attitude needs to change. Although people deserve second chances, they do not deserve cheers and adoration because of what they do on the field when they make no amends for nor improve their behavior off the field.
Solo has the right to tell her side, and we will see what the court rules. But, if she is found guilty, her punishment as an athlete should be the same as others receive. And by that, I don't mean such crimes should be excused. I mean the punishment in these circumstances should be strict for everyone -- especially the male athletes who far more often commit the crime.