U.S. Soccer suspended goalie Hope Solo from the U.S. women’s soccer team for six months for her divisive comments aimed at Sweden during the Rio Games, the organization announced Wednesday night.
Beyond the suspension announced publicly, Solo's national team contract was terminated after a 15-minute-long meeting with the federation on Wednesday, USWNT Players Association executive director Rich Nichols told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview.
Solo blasted Sweden after the USA lost 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in the quarterfinals Aug. 12.
"We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that," Solo said, according to Sports Illustrated. "I think you saw American heart."
"The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions."
Nichols bristled for both the reasons given for the suspension — a penalty he vowed to appeal on Thursday — and that U.S. Soccer only announced Solo had been suspended.
"She got fired," Nichols said. "She was fired for making comments that no man would have been fired for making. It's a draconian penalty."
Solo said she was "saddened" by U.S. Soccer's decision to suspend her, according to a statement obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
"For 17 years, I dedicated my life to the U.S. Women’s National Team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how — with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country, but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes," Solo said. "In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the federation’s decision to terminate my contract.
"I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game."
Solo was among five members of the U.S. women’s national team who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April, a bid that sought wage equality with their male colleagues. The EEOC has yet to announce a decision in the case.
The complaint came in amidst a legal challenge by U.S. Soccer after a dispute as to when the agreement between the federation and the players expires. The federation court ruled in June that the contract does not expire until year’s end, a decision that prevented players on the women’s national team from striking ahead of the Summer Olympics.
This is the second time Solo, 35, has been suspended by U.S. Soccer. In January 2015, she was banned for a month after police in Manhattan Beach (Calif.) stopped a U.S. Soccer Federation van and arrested her husband, former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens, on suspicion of driving under the influence. Solo was a passenger in the van and wasn’t charged.
"Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. National Team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action," Gulati said.
The U.S. women’s national team only has two games listed on its website: against Thailand (Sept. 15) and Netherlands (Sept. 18).
The ban has no bearing on her eligibility in the National Women's Soccer League; Solo plays for the Seattle Reign.
These are the two schools of thought, from Dr. Nicole LaVoi, on if it was a legit punishment.
“On one side, I think you could say it was harsh and over the top and perhaps sexist. On the other side I think you could say it was maybe the culmination of bad behavior over time that they said enough is enough,” LaVoi said.
So this latest incident just might have been been the last straw.
“I think for so long she's been so dominant across the world that maybe the coaches and the federation could just side step or look the other way but now that teams performance was subpar in the Olympics and they didn't win gold maybe they just said enough is enough,” Dr. LaVoi said.
But there just might be a teensy bit of sexism going on here.
“I think Hope Solo is a bit of a lightning rod and she's done some things that are outside the norm for female athlete behavior and now is she judged more harshly because of that, yes I think so,” LaVoi said.