There are a lot of double standards in society when it comes to women.
Some, like sexuality or weight, tend to be much more damaging than others — compared to, say, one’s personality or fashion choices.
One in particular has been exposed this past year, and this one has managed to go under the radar of mainstream and national debate.
It is a complex story, and the divisiveness created as a result of it is imposing to approach.
On June 21, 2014, Hope Solo, arguably the best goalie on the planet in women’s soccer, was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence against her half-sister and her nephew, who was 17 years old at the time.
What happened that night at Teresa Obert’s home in Kirkland, Washington? Well, it depends on who you ask.
If you ask Solo, she vehemently insists — publicly on social media, in an exclusive ESPN feature, and even on “Good Morning America” — that she was the victim. She constantly mentions her nephew’s 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame, and that it started with the two exchanging insults before it eventually escalated to a scuffle that involved him breaking a broomstick over her head and pointing a gun at her, demanding she leave.
He, along with his mother, Obert, painted a very different picture.
Their account, pieced together in a recent “Outside the Lines” report, is much more damning. It describes an intoxicated Solo and a back-and-forth insult contest with her nephew that sent the soccer star over the edge to the point that she swung at him. After being temporarily subdued by him, an enraged Solo repeatedly punched both family members in the face. First it was the teenager, and then it was Obert after she tried to pull Solo off of her son. She even went so far as to slam his head into the cement floor of the garage over and over again until Obert intervened. After a 911 call by the nephew and a forced exit of the house thanks to a broken BB gun, Solo came back inside from the backdoor. She proceeded to shove her sister down the two steps into the garage right before the teenager broke a broomstick over her head just prior to the police arriving.
A Washington statute requires law enforcement to use their best judgment to determine who the “primary physical aggressor is,” and based on the injuries and the interviews police had with all parties in the immediate aftermath, they decided they had enough probable cause to arrest Solo.
In January, the case was dismissed on procedural grounds because the two alleged victims didn’t submit to a second round of sworn depositions, requested by Solo’s lawyer, Todd Maybrown. His defense was the obvious route: poke holes in the witness’ testimonies and characterize the nephew as “mentally unstable.”
When Obert and her son ignored the second request, Judge Michael Lambo threw the case out, citing their failure to cooperate and the prosecution’s lack of adherence to discovery rules regarding witnesses because they announced several more on short notice.
Shedding all the circumstantial details and the dismissal of the case — which gained new life in February after a special appeal was approved and will unfold over the coming months — there’s a larger looming issue that was never properly dealt with.
While all this was taking place in the backdrop of the Ray Rice saga with the NFL, Solo’s position on the U.S. Women’s National Team was never in doubt.
It took U.S. Soccer nearly three months to make an official statement, and in the same flawed manner as the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, it failed to properly investigate the incident with police, and only spoke with the star athlete involved.
After “Outside the Lines” uncovered new reports that shed light onto Solo’s unruly and alarming behavior with police that night on her way to jail, while being booked, and in an incident that required her to be subdued during the two-plus days she was locked up, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
“If the ‘Outside the Lines’ reports are correct,” Blumenthal wrote, “U.S. Soccer’s approach to domestic violence and family violence in this instance is at best superficial and at worst dangerously neglectful and self-serving.”
Even after these reports surfaced and their characterization of Solo that night was in line with Obert and her son’s story, there was nothing.
No further investigation. No dismissal. No suspension. Nothing.
Gulati defended the federation’s actions in a response to Blumenthal, citing the inconsistencies of the initial police reports and pointed to the facts regarding the dismissal of the case. And while he did acknowledge the new information about her reprehensible behavior while in custody, it’s unlikely any kind of action will be taken until the appeal runs its course.
So instead, Solo is in the midst of a World Cup title chase in Canada with the U.S. crest sewn into her jersey. She’s representing this country on the world’s biggest stage with a massive smokescreen hanging above her.
And for what? A more confident campaign for another World Cup?
Regardless of gender and regardless of status, we must hold all athletes to the same standard.
Solo should not be getting a pass because she’s a woman and an unlikely aggressor, and she should not be getting a pass because she’s the one of the best players in the game.
Goalies are the last line of defense, and they’re only as good as the 10 players in front of them.
But make no mistake. Solo, right now, has never had so few people behind her.