August 24, 2016
U.S. Soccer suspends Solo for 6 months, terminates her national team contract
By Michael Lewis
|Hope Solo: “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."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Has Hope Solo played her final game with the U.S. women's national team?
U.S. Soccer Wednesday night suspended the controversial goalkeeper from the national team for six months "for conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles," and ended her contract with the federation.
The ban for the 35-year-old Solo, who was suspended for 30 days early in 2015 for her conduct, was effective immediately, the organization said..
Solo called Sweden "a bunch of cowards" after the Americans were shown the door at the Rio Olympics as they lost in a shootout, 4-3, following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes of regulation and extratime.
It was the first time the U.S. failed to reach the semifinals of a Women's World Cup or an Olympic tournament. In fact, the Americans never have finished below third place.
“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.
“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.”
As a result of the suspension, Solo would not be eligible for selection to the U.S. women’s national team until February. Head coach Jill Ellis is expected to have the final say on that.
In a statement released by her FaceBook page, Solo said she was “saddened” by the decision to terminate her contract.
"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," she said. "In those commitments, I have never wavered. And so with 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 has had a long history of controversies. That includes her public criticism of then U.S. women's national coach Greg Ryan for her benching at the 2007 Women's World Cup semifinals, criticized former U.S. standout and then NBC announcer Brandi Chastain at the 2012 Summer Games in London and her arrest on domestic violence charges and the van episode with her husband in 2015.
This might have been the straw that broke the camel's proverbial back.
Rich Nichols, the general counsel for the women’s national team’s players’ association, told The New York Times that Solo’s ban “excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate, and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights.”
“She was fired for making comments that a man never would have been fired for,” he was quoted by the newspaper.
Solo will receive three months of severance, The Times reported.
Nichols said that he would file a grievance on her behalf on Thursday morning.
After the Swedes eliminated the Americans, Solo said:
"I’m very proud of this team. But I also think we played a bunch of cowards.
"The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that. I think you saw American heart. You saw us give everything we had today."
Asked why she called the Swedes cowards, Solo replied that she wasn't impressed with their tactics.
"They dropped into a 50," she said. "They didn’t try and press. They didn’t want to open the game. And they tried to counter with long balls. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. I don’t think they’re going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly. But they won. They’re moving on, and we’re going home."