Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hope Solo's Suspension: It's About Time

When USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo called Sweden's team a "bunch of cowards," I was angry. That is not how I want any athlete, male or female, to act when representing the United States.

Was I mad they'd lost? Sure. Any passionate fan of the game of soccer would have been.

However, as former USWNT star Julie Foudy said, Solo's comments were "classless and ridiculous." Teammate Megan Rapinoe said she was "really disappointed" in the comments, adding, "That’s not our team, that’s not what this team has always been, that’s not what this team will be in the future."

Wednesday's action by the USSF terminating Solo's contract and suspending her for six months sounds like it's harsh, taken as a reaction to this one incident.

That's what Rich Nichols, the general counsel of the USWNT Players Association, wants you to think.

Nichols called the suspension/contract termination "excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate, and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights." While Solo will receive three months of severance pay, Nichols said they will be filing a grievance on her behalf.

Here's the thing. It's not like this is the first time Solo has behaved poorly in public. Not even close.

In 2007, Solo threw then-coach Greg Ryan under the bus for benching her for the World Cup semifinal the team ended up losing. She never played for Ryan again, but was brought back in to the team by Pia Sundhage after she took over after Ryan was fired.

In 2014, Solo was arrested for beating up her half-sister and nephew at a family gathering. That case has not yet been resolved.

In 2015, Solo was suspended for 30 days after allowing her husband to get behind the wheel of a borrowed team van while he was intoxicated.

Then, earlier this month, Solo called the Swedes a bunch of cowards for successfully using a tactic that teams have been using against superior opposition for ages.

In his statement announcing the suspension, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati referenced this past behavior, saying, "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."

To Nichols' point that the disciplinary action taken by U.S. Soccer violates Solo's First Amendment rights, that's just ridiculous.

I support the First Amendment just as strongly as anybody else in my position, but Nichols is incorrect when he says Solo's rights were violated.

The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As written, the First Amendment refers to the government not being able to tell you what you can or can't say. It doesn't say anything about people's employers not being able to discipline their employees for the stupid stuff they say.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, let Solo's productive career for the USWNT come to an end and let someone else have a chance. Lord knows they might actually have a sportsmanlike bone in their body.

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