Enabling Hope Solo

Hope Solo practically won the USWNT’s first World Cup game by herself. Despite the recent ugly revelations about her actions from last year, the team needs her. The US is on a mission this year, and the inconvenient facts of Solo’s ugly character doesn’t stop her teammates from needing her. Though Solo is clearly entangled in a cycle of abusive relationships with her family and alcohol, though she has revealed herself to be a violent, petty, selfish bully, her place on the USWNT won’t be challenged.

The timing of the new revelations in the Hope Solo scandal from last June was cynically appropriate; ESPN released the story the day before the USWNT’s first game in Canada. Sure some reporter camped on the story until maximum saturation point. And that sucks. But most of the media consuming populace has women’s soccer pretty far down below the NBA Finals, Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah, the French Open, the Stanley Cup Finals, etc. etc. So during a World Cup, this news had the most leverage, and unfortunately that means this new news will do the most damage to the women of the USWNT. You can’t tell me this won’t be a distraction.

No one pretends to think Solo is a saint anymore. Not like we did when her memoir was released, back when she was a pure media darling. Her autobiography, Solo: A Story of Hope, had a witty title due to the flexible definitions of her names, but imagine if Lance Armstrong had released a book called Armstrong: A Story of Lance. We’d all be jaw-dropped by his narcissism. You know, the kind that makes you think you can dupe The World Anti-Doping Agency and the entire world for almost a decade. Solo is equally delusional, and we should’ve known it all along. Remember when she ripped World Cup champion and inaugural USWNT’er Brianna Scurry back in 2007? Solo insults cops, gets violently drunk in public, takes shots at her nephew (who cares how big he is– men can be victims of domestic violence as well), and thinks she can get away with it.

The world of professional sports is finally entering a thaw. No more is it a hidebound boys’ club, where anything goes. Rampant drug use, domestic abuse, rape, steroids, murder and animal cruelty, to name a few, have all come to withering public light in that last decade. None of that is excusable any more. And Solo’s actions shouldn’t be either.

However most of us seem content to block out the static, at least until after the World Cup. It is an unsettling familiar feeling for me. I am die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. Back in 2009 when Michael Vick was released from Leavenworth and signed with the Birds, I was uncomfortable. I have a dog. Vick coldly murdered many dogs by drowning and electrocution. He personally held dogs’ heads under water and they died in his grasp. But then he started winning. He beat the Giants. And the Cowboys. And I really forgot about the dogs. I wanted to believe Vick had reformed, and, to Vick’s credit, I actually believe he did.

But what do you do if you are a Floyd Mayweather fan? Or Greg Hardy? Both men are unrepentant bullies. What do you do if you are a USWNT supporter? Cheer for the woman between the pipes and forget who she is off the field? That would be a horrible double standard.

We all have abusive relationships with the athletes we love. They break our hearts (especially if you’re an Eagles fans) repeatedly, on and off the field. But we’ll forgive them every. single. time. because they might just get things right one day. That’s the gamble anyone in an abusive relationship takes.

Updated: June 10, 2015 — 12:33 am
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