Solo Critique Misses Point

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

In recent months, sports news has been flooded with horrifying stories of domestic violence, with the scene being mostly dominated by players from the NFL. However, amid the debacle surrounding the now-infamous cases of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, one sports star’s charges seemed to have slipped through the cracks. United States Women’s National Team goalkeeper Hope Solo was arrested for assaulting her half-sister and 17-year-old nephew back in June, but so far the team’s coaches and owners have handed down no repercussions to Solo.

The details of the case are eerily familiar to those who have followed the recent influx of domestic violence stories surfacing in the media: Solo, then 32, had been drinking when she allegedly approached her family members and engaged in the violent altercation. She left unscathed, while her sister and nephew sustained visible injuries to their faces. But it’s at this point that Solo’s story veers in an entirely different direction than those of Peterson and Rice.

Peterson, who now faces charges of felony child abuse, and Rice, who will soon go to court to handle his simple assault charges, were both cut from their respective teams almost immediately. Rice was also indefinitely suspended from the NFL. What charges are Solo facing? Two misdemeanors. What consequences have been imposed on her by the U.S. National Soccer Team? None.

Besides a slap on the wrist by U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, who called the abuse “disturbing” in a recent email to USA Today, the league has all but ignored Solo’s incident. In fact, Solo has been more celebrated than ever in recent weeks for tallying the most shutouts ever in U.S. women’s soccer history. She even had the team’s captain band bestowed upon her before a recent friendly match.

However, media outlets have been quick to equate Solo’s case with those of Peterson and Rice, and have even more readily transformed this story into a dialogue about women committing acts of domestic violence “too.” While Solo should absolutely be suspended for her wrongdoing, the conversation about her case should stop there. There is no excuse for domestic assault, but harping on her case detracts from the larger issue at hand.

I firmly believe that a professional athlete is a professional athlete, and domestic violence is domestic violence, regardless of gender. But does U.S. Soccer have a domestic assault problem? Absolutely not. Part of the reason that this case has received so much media attention is because of its rarity. It is only once in a blue moon that we hear about cases like Solo’s.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of all violent crime arrests in the NFL are domestic violence charges.

This is an issue that the league deals with on an ongoing basis. This is also incredibly important when we take a step back to think about the different fan bases of the two leagues. The U.S. Women’s National Team has historically attracted a younger female crowd due to its close ties with an amendment to Title IX. The 1999 women’s World Cup team was a direct product of the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, the act that gave female collegiate athletes the opportunity to compete in equal numbers as male athletic teams had for years prior.

On the other hand, the NFL directs most of its advertisements and commercial products at its primary consumers: men. So male fans are not only idolizing players in the league but aspiring to be like them.

With respect to Hope Solo and her case, the conversation about domestic violence needs to shift away from a game of pointing fingers and to move toward a unified effort aimed at ending all domestic violence in all sports.