Former United States goalkeeper Hope Solo believes her 2016 suspension had little to do with her harsh comments about Sweden. Instead, Solo believes she was suspended for being outspoken about equal pay.
Following the U.S. women’s national team’s loss to Sweden in the 2016 Olympics, Solo drew criticism after calling the Swedish team “a bunch of cowards.” Days after Solo made those comments, U.S. Soccer suspended Solo and terminated her contract.
In a Guardian column on Wednesday, the 37-year-old Solo explained her side of the story.
Solo admitted that her comments were emotionally charged. She was upset her team lost the game, and wanted to express her frustration over Sweden resorting to extreme defensive tactics to win.
Shortly after making those comments, Solo said she talked to Sweden’s captain and made sure there were no hard feelings. Solo added that she also spoke to U.S. Soccer head coach Jill Ellis, and didn’t get the sense that Ellis was upset about her comments.
But Solo was still reprimanded. U.S. Soccer cited “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles” as the reason for the punishment.
Solo believes that was just a convenient excuse to distract from the real issue: her fight for equal pay.
“I have made no secret about the fact that I believe my termination was not about what happened in Rio at all, but about my fight for equal pay. I had been a thorn in the Federation’s side for years and things had gotten worse leading up to and through the Games as negotiations for our collective bargaining agreement intensified. US Soccer realized it now had an excuse to remove its biggest adversary in the fight for equal pay, and it did.
“But US Soccer told a different story to the outside world. It said I showed poor sportsmanship and didn’t represent our country well. And the media backed this narrative. It was clearly not OK to show emotion. I had shown emotion. It wasn’t OK. I apparently had a bad reputation.”
The USWNT is still fighting that fight today. In March, the women signed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination.” When U.S. Soccer fought back, the women said they looked forward to going to trial.
The Americans will take on Sweden in the World Cup on Thursday.
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