Longtime star goalkeeper Hope Solo has been suspended from the U.S. national women’s soccer team for calling the Swedish team “cowards” after the Swedes eliminated the U.S. from the Olympics.
The suspension, which also involved a termination of her contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, was promptly lamented by Ms. Solo and denounced as sexist by the team players’ union, which vowed an appeal.
“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players,” said USSF President Sunil Gulati in a statement released Wednesday evening.
In a statement, Ms. Solo said that “for 17 tears I dedicated my life to the U.S. women’s national team … with so much more to give, I am saddened by the federation’s decision to terminate my contract.”
Rich Nichols, executive director of the USWNT Players Association, was more than saddened, calling the suspension and termination “unprecedented, excessive, disproportionate and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment Rights” and saying the union “will file an appeal on Ms. Solo’s behalf.”
Mr. Nichols played the sexism card.
“We also question whether this action would ever have been taken against a male player or coach, who, in the heated moments after a frustrating defeat, questioned the tactics of the opposing team,” he said in a statement.
Sweden eliminated the U.S. on a penalty shootout in the Olympic quarterfinals, ensuring the team would get no medal for the first time ever. After the game, Ms. Solo attacked the Swedes for negative play, calling them “a bunch of cowards” for playing for the draw and a shootout.
“We played a creative game. We had many opportunities on goal … The best team did not win today,” she continued. “Sweden dropped back. They didn’t want to open play. They didn’t want to pass the ball around. They didn’t want to play great soccer, entertaining soccer.”
Pia Sundhage, the Swedish coach who formerly held the same position with the U.S. women’s team, rebutted her former player saying “it’s OK to be a coward if you win.”
“According to Hope Solo, I think you should define what is a good team. Well, usually — especially with the Americans — a good team is when they’re winning,” she continued.
The war of words and the social-media backlash — which involved some U.S. player, had prompted Ms. Solo to back off some, acknowledging on Twitter that she doesn’t take defeat well.
That wasn’t enough for the U.S. Soccer Federation, which said the suspension was made “taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope.”
Ms. Solo had been suspended for 30 days in 2015 over a drunken-driving incident involving both her and her husband.
The suspension takes effect immediately and runs through February 2017, though neither the Women’s World Cup nor any other major competitive tournament is scheduled for that period.
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