CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo has been suspended for six months for what U.S. Soccer termed conduct “counter to the organization’s principles.”
The suspension is effective immediately.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported U.S. Soccer also terminated Solo’s contract.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Wednesday that comments Solo made after the U.S. lost to Sweden during the Rio Olympics were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.”
“Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect,” Gulati said. “We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”
Solo called Sweden a “bunch of cowards” after the Swedes beat the U.S. 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.
“I thought we played a courageous game. I thought we had many opportunities on goal,” Solo said. “I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team.
“I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly and firmly believe that.”
Solo, who was previously suspended for 30 days early in 2015 for her conduct, will not be eligible for selection to the national team until February.
Solo told Sports Illustrated she was “saddened” by U.S. Soccer’s decision to terminate her contract and suspend her.
“I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things,” Solo said. “My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association said Solo’s suspension and contract termination were a violation of her First Amendment rights.
“Given the conduct and alleged policy violation, we believe the proposed discipline to be excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment Rights,” Rich Nichols, executive director of the players association, told Sports Illustrated.
Nichols questioned if gender discrimination played a part in the organization’s action against Solo.
“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. Needless to say, we will file and appeal on Ms. Solo’s behalf,” Nichols.
Solo was a lightning rod during the Olympic tournament, irking fans in Brazil when she posted a photo of herself covered with mosquito netting and armed with insect repellent on social media. Fans booed her mercilessly and hollered “Zika!” each time she kicked downfield.
The she caused a stir with her “cowards” comment.
Sweden’s coach Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. team to gold medals in Beijing and London, replied by stating: “It’s OK to be a coward if you win.”
Solo has been making headlines throughout her stellar career.
Last month, she became the first goalkeeper with 100 international shutouts when the United States defeated South Africa 1-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was also her 150th career win.
Solo won her second straight Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper at the Women’s World Cup a year ago. Over the course of the tournament in Canada, she had five clean sheets and allowed only three goals in seven games.
She’s vocally advocated for women’s rights. Solo was among the U.S. players who filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination, saying the men’s national team players have been paid much more than many on the women’s team, which for years has out-performed the U.S. men on the international stage.
More recently, she’s called for better conditions for players in the National Women’s Soccer League.
She has also been trying to avoid a trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges after a 2014 incident at her sister’s home, when the goalkeeper was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo said she was a victim in the altercation. Earlier this year, an appeals court in Washington state rejected Solo’s request to avoid trial.
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