Hope Solo's fight for equality continues, both in her own lawsuit against U.S. Soccer and in the media
It’s been a while since Hope Solo played soccer — more than four years, in fact, since her abrupt and controversial ouster from the U.S. women’s national team ended her goalkeeper career. She has moved on with her life, giving birth to a boy and a girl in March with husband Jerramy Stevens, and enjoying farm life in North Carolina.
But even as Solo, arguably the greatest goalkeeper of all time, should ostensibly be out of the spotlight, she remains as relevant in the soccer world as ever. It’s not just her role in fighting U.S. Soccer over equal pay or her broadcast analyst work for BeIN Sports that keeps her name in the news.
“More people are interested in my life, having twins and fighting for equal pay, than I—” she tells Yahoo Sports before cutting herself off, as if she’s at a loss. “I’ve been out of the game for quite some time now, so it kind of makes me chuckle that we’re still getting in Hollywood magazines for having twins and things like that.”
That doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.
Even after years away from the game, bits and pieces of her playing career resonate, keeping her in the conversation, whether it’s her recent Hall of Fame snub or her still-viable lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.
Solo’s equal pay lawsuit continues — and it could help USWNT settlement
When Solo first learned that a judge had dismissed the wage discrimination case filed by her former USWNT teammates earlier this year, she was crestfallen.
The lawsuit was not hers — she has her own separate equal pay case against the U.S. Soccer Federation she filed first, which remains unresolved — but it was disheartening news nonetheless. She immediately called the USWNT’s chief legal counsel, Jeffrey Kessler, she says, to figure out what went wrong.
“We had a meeting and asked him why in the world this happened,” she says. “We had my attorneys analyze the summary judgment and we do believe there are some holes. I told my teammates numerous times: We can’t just rely on attorneys. We have to read every document — we have lived this life and we know the details — and what I am afraid happened is they relied too much on the attorneys.”
Solo’s case, which she filed seven months before the collective USWNT player pool announced their high-profile case, is very similar to the one that has gotten the bulk of the attention and was dismissed in May. Both lawsuits argue that U.S. Soccer paid men’s national team players more than the women for the same work via larger performance bonuses.
But in the USWNT’s case, the judge didn’t even think it merited a jury trial, ruling that the women were actually paid more than the men. The USWNT has vowed to appeal the dismissal, but other parts of the lawsuit still need to go to trial before that can happen, a process that has been delayed by the pandemic.
Solo’s case, meanwhile, remains intact. Although the USWNT’s case is a class-action lawsuit, meaning Solo could join in as a plaintiff, she has declined. Her case is stronger, she says, because never signed onto the 2017 collective bargaining agreement at the heart of the USWNT’s lawsuit.
“With the players waiting a year to file [their lawsuit] and signing their current CBA, which was not equal, which was not the smart thing to do in this overall fight, their class action suit got dismissed in summary judgment,” Solo says. “The judge didn’t even want to hear oral arguments. That was a dagger to the heart.
“I didn’t opt in because I didn’t believe it would put me in the best position knowing that the current players agreed to that CBA, the same CBA we fought for so long not to agree to,” she adds. “That puts them in a different position than me because I never agreed to that CBA.”
Indeed, the judge in his dismissal noted that a “history of negotiations” showed the USWNT in 2017 didn’t want the same CBA as the men and “cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse” by comparison.
But Solo thinks her case, for all its differences and similarities, can help her teammates reach a settlement with U.S. Soccer.
“The Olympics are next year, and U.S. Soccer is not in good standing with the players and a lot of their sponsors until they do pay women equally, so I do believe there’s going to be some sort of resolution, potentially,” she says. “But I also know the players can use my case to help resolve it because my case is still standing and the federation is not happy that I still haven’t settled it.”
U.S. Soccer’s lawyers have said they will ask for Solo’s case to be dismissed once the USWNT case’s summary judgment is finalized after an appeal. But with the backlog created by the pandemic, that could be a long way away.
For now, Solo’s case lingers in the backdrop of any settlement negotiations.
“There’s a lot of things we can negotiate and that there’s potential for, but it really just matters where U.S. Soccer stands right now,” she says. “With their new council, they need to start checking things off their list.”
Solo makes transition from newsmaker to news commentator
Solo’s legal fight is an extracurricular activity, but even her new job as a studio analyst for BeIN Sports has an element of pushing for equality.
While many networks have traditionally relegated female analysts to talking about the women’s game, the bulk of Solo’s work for BeIN Sports across several studio shows centers around La Liga, the renowned Spanish men’s league. She’s often joined by another woman, former Canadian international Kaylyn Kyle, on broadcasts.
“There are not enough women analysts,” Solo says. “That’s what I’ve loved about BeIN — nobody even questioned it. Kaylyn and I will sit in the studio, two female analysts alongside maybe one male analyst, or sometimes it’s just the two of us, and we’ve created history for BeIN. You can’t really find other broadcasts that have two female analysts for a men’s game.”
For fans who have followed Solo’s career, a post-playing transition to a media role seemed like an obvious fit. The 39-year-old’s penchant for brutal honesty has always captivated an audience.
It hasn’t necessarily helped her soccer career. After she called out coach Greg Ryan for his bizarre decision to bench her at the 2007 World Cup, she was briefly kicked off the team. And in 2016, her USWNT career ended after she said the Swedish team played like “a bunch of cowards” at the Olympics and U.S. Soccer terminated her contract.
But as an analyst, coupled with her name recognition, such outspokenness can be an asset. One of her earliest introductions into the media side of the sport included a bit where she poked fun at Lionel Messi’s alleged tax evasion, U.S. Soccer, the USWNT’s CBA and even herself.
Before transitioning to a serious analyst though, Solo insists she needed to make sure she was cut out for it. After all, she had spent years being the best on the soccer pitch, so she wanted to know she could be the best on a studio set, too.
“I didn’t necessarily want to do things if I wasn’t great at them,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of commentators come and go just because they had a name on the U.S. women’s national team, so therefore they got a job commentating. I wanted to make sure the way I went about it, I was prepared.”
She’s done well enough that BeIN Sports has put her on a handful of shows, including pregame, halftime and postgame coverage for La Liga, as well as the network’s flagship show, “The Soccer XTRA,” and a Facebook show called “Sports Burst.”
BeIN Sports’ top soccer properties are men’s leagues, most notably Spain’s La Liga and France’s Ligue 1, along with some World Cup qualifiers, but that’s just fine with Solo.
Her very first analyst job was covering the 2018 men’s World Cup for an Irish network alongside older British men, which she admits was intimidating. “I had to overcome my insecurities,” she says. But she quickly realized she could analyze the game just as well.
“It’s no different than the women’s game,” she says. “The speed might be a little different but in terms of tactics, individual skill, different coaching scenarios, formations, nothing really changes.”
For Solo, like everyone else, much of her orbit has been in limbo because of the pandemic — her legal proceedings around equal pay delayed, and a temporary suspension from being able to work on-site at BeIN’s studios. But amid all the uncertainty, the one thing that remains clear is Solo won’t be fading from the public eye anytime soon, whether she likes it or not.
Asked about finding the balance between being in the news and commenting on the news, Solo says it’s not difficult. If magazines want to write about her personal life, that’s up to them and out of her control.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” she says. “We’re living out our private life here in North Carolina.
“And trust me,” she adds, laughing, “I hate to admit it, but I don’t read any articles about myself. I think every time I do I get upset.”
Caitlin Murray is a contributor to Yahoo Sports and her book about the U.S. women’s national team, The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer, is out now. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinmurr.
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