Hope Solo should not be playing right now for the U.S. Women's National soccer team.
Earlier this year, the star keeper was arrested for allegedly attacking her sister and 17-year-old nephew. The police report said Solo was "intoxicated and upset," and she allegedly called her nephew "too fat" to be an athlete. Also according to the report, the boy had blood on his shirt, and his mother (Solo's sister) was visibly injured.
After a flurry of media reports directly after the June altercation -- Solo has a court date set for November -- very little has been said or written in the media about the pending case. After a brief hiatus, Solo quietly went back to playing with her club team, the Seattle Reign, as well as with the national team, which is in the final stages of qualifying for the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Looking the other way when star athletes face charges of domestic violence has been the standard operating procedure for decades. Nothing to see here; keep it moving. And in this way, sports have merely reflected society, where domestic violence goes underpunished, underreported and misunderstood.
But in the past 10 days, the conversation has shifted dramatically. The NFL, a league once thought invincible, is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, with a bright spotlight now shining on its history of turning a blind eye to charges of domestic violence within its ranks. Before this season, in Roger Goodell's tenure, the NFL reportedly had 56 allegations of domestic violence among its players. For those offenses, players missed a total of 13 games. To put that in perspective, for every incident of violence against a family member or intimate partner, an NFL player missed just under one quarter of a game -- about the same amount of time it takes to stand in line for a hot dog and soda.
Translation: There was essentially no punishment.
Yes, the NFL is now in the crosshairs on this issue. But the issue shouldn't be limited to the NFL. The debate shouldn't just be about how a small but significant number of football players have hit women or other men or children. The issue is bigger than just that. The issue is about anger and power, about controlling relationships with violence, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator, regardless of the gender of the victim.
Solo is accused of violence against a family member; she should be suspended until she handles her legal issues. It's worth noting that a lack of national coverage (to this moment, anyway) of Solo's situation isn't as much a reflection of a double-standard in the coverage of assault as it is a reflection of the attention paid to the NFL versus the attention paid to women's sports. Female athletes mostly fly below the radar -- for better and for worse.
Even so, the U.S. women's national team is sending the wrong message by allowing Solo to continue playing while she deals with these allegations. Actually, it's hard to decipher exactly what U.S. Soccer's message is. Neil Buethe, director of communications for U.S. Soccer, offered this explanation to USA Today for why Solo is still on the field: "We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at this moment. At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the National Team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way." (Solo recently broke the women's national team record for shutouts.)
So is Buethe saying that if Solo weren't close to breaking a record, perhaps she wouldn't be playing? Is he insinuating that Solo notching that last shutout is more important than sending a message to young soccer fans that actions have consequences, even if you're thisclose to setting a record? Finally, the euphemism of "personal situation" downplays the reality of what is happening, which is that Solo is facing charges of domestic violence against two family members, including a minor.
Anger knows no gender, nor does domestic violence.
U.S. Soccer needs to suspend Solo, and it needs to do so immediately.