June 13, 2015
By Charles Cuttone
Grandstanding politicians don't help
First, a geography lesson. U.S. Soccer is headquartered in Chicago. Hope Solo, when she is not on the road keeping the U.S. Women's National Team in games, lives in Washington. The state, not the city that is domicile to our largely do-nothing congress.
So why then is a Senator from Connecticut making noise about how U.S. Soccer handled the allegations of domestic violence against Solo last year? It's called grandstanding. It's what our politicians do from time to time to make it seem like they are actually doing their jobs, when in reality they are not.
Let's face it, who outside of the state of Connecticut had ever heard of Senator Richard Blumenthal until he sent a letter to U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati about the Solo situation, and then oh, released it to the media.
This is not a defense of U.S. Soccer or certainly not of Hope Solo, but the reality is this is all probably getting far more attention than it deserves.
Was Solo charged with domestic violence in Kirkland Washington last June? Yes. That is clear. Very little else is, as this has developed into a "he said, she said" scenario that ultimately the courts are going to have to sort out.
The charges brought against Solo for allegedly getting into a fight with her half-sister and nephew were labeled as domestic violence, were misdemeanors, which in most jurisdictions are punishable by a fine, rarely jail time. The charges were labeled domestic violence, but in the strictest context, they really were not. Domestic violence usually involves persons who are cohabitating, not relatives who got into a drunken brawl at a party.
A report last week revealed more about the incident, including allegations of bad behavior on Solo's part toward the police. These allegations were not originally revealed, nor were there any charges filed.
The charges against Solo came at a time when the National Football League was handling (or mis-handling) the Ray Rice case, in which the Baltimore Ravens player was charged with knocking his then-fiancÚ, now wife, out cold in an elevator, then dragging her limp body through the hall of an Atlantic City Casino.
After NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell first suspended Rice, it came to light that there was video of the incident, after which the suspension was increased, appealed and decreased. Rice was charged by a grand jury with aggravated assault. The charges were dropped when he agreed to undergo court-supervised counseling.
Though they have been portrayed by many as the same, the two incidents are very different, and really, labeling the Solo case as domestic violence, rather than simple assault, demeans domestic violence cases in their true nature.
How the NFL and U.S. Soccer handled or didn't handle the cases is another matter. I am not sure it is up to sports organizations to step in and discipline an athlete for an off-field matter when the courts fail do so. It's more a matter of PR than anything else. Is it bad PR for your running back or goalkeeper to be accused of domestic violence? No doubt. But in the Rice case, if he had served jail time, he would have been out of the NFL and behind bars.
The Solo case has yet to make it through the courts, because the charges were dropped on a technicality, but prosecutors are trying to re-file the charges. Perhaps when the charges were first brought, U.S. Soccer should have acted. Especially since Solo has a lengthy history of bad-behavior incidents, and indeed she was suspended for a month when her husband, Jeremy Stephens was charged with DUI while driving a U.S. Soccer vehicle, with Solo in the passenger seat. That suspension came after the U.S. had already qualified for the World Cup, and meant the goalkeeper was unavailable for a pair of European exhibitions.
There are probably three take-aways from all of this.
Domestic violence is a serious issue. It should be taken seriously by the courts, politicians and sports organizations. But we need to be clear on what domestic violence is, and the fact that it usually involves a pattern towards one's spouse or domestic partner.
Hope Solo is not a role model. Not just because she is an athlete. No one should be. If we want to look for role models in athletes, it should not be because of their ability on the field, it should be because of what they do off the field with fame they are given. Solo's former teammate/backup Jillian Loyden is a good example of this. She has started a foundation dedicated to fighting domestic abuse, after her sister was murdered by her fiancÚ.
Politicians should stop pretending they are doing something about a non-issue and really do something. But that's not likely to happen any time soon.