This past week, the U.S. Soccer team terminated the contract of their infamous goalie Hope Solo. For 17 years, Solo was the face of the U.S. Women’s National Team, leading the women to world cup championships, Olympic victories, and receiving notoriety for a sport that is still “up and coming” in the country. Solo helped to make the sport famous; specifically, developing a large fan base for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. She was also an important figure in the on going litigation over the wage disparity between men and women soccer players in the United States. Despite her successes, Solo had strung out a history of poor decisions, leading up to her termination from U.S. Soccer.
Upon losing to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals match, Solo let her emotions get the best of her, stating that the Swedes were “a bunch of cowards” for not going toe-to-toe with the more talented American team. The comments caused uproar in the sports world, as it painted the star as poor sport; one whose values go against what the Olympics stand for. Although some are saying that it were her post-Olympic comments that found her in trouble, others point to her most recent history of poor decisions which culminated to her termination from the team. In 2014, Solo, was arrested on charges of assaulting two family members and served a 30-day ban last year after her husband was arrested on drunken-driving charges while he and Solo were in a borrowed team van. In 2007, Solo was ostracized by the national team for several months after ripping its coach at the time, Greg Ryan, for starting her backup in a World Cup semifinal that the Americans lost, 4-0. At the 2012 Olympics, she took to Twitter to publicly criticize the former player Brandi Chastain, who was calling the team’s games for NBC.
Regardless of the reason, U.S. Soccer has the right to terminate Solo’s contract. U.S. Soccer may terminate Solo’s contract for workplace misconduct, or conduct that is detrimental to the employer (U.S. Soccer). In the present instance, U.S. Soccer feels that Solo’s comments do not align with the identity of what their organization stands for, and in turn, she is hurting the brand. The U.S. Soccer’s president, Sunil Gulati, put out a statement regarding the decision to terminate Solo 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.”
The termination came as a shock to Solo, as attorney Rich Nichols, the general counsel for the women’s national team’s players’ association, called Solo’s suspension “excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate, and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights.” Nichols believes that Solo has a fighting chance at seeking damages for the sudden termination. Nichols believes that the issue of gender may be ground to argue, stating “She was fired for making comments that a man never would have been fired for.” Despite this comparator, U.S. Soccer still has the right to terminate Solo’s contract under just means. Solo will receive three months of severance pay after the termination of her contract, but Nichols said Wednesday night that he would file a grievance on her behalf on Thursday morning.
It is an abrupt and tragic end to the career for one of American Soccer’s finest players. Solo recently commented that she would not be playing this season for her U.S. Soccer-funded National Women’s Soccer League club the Seattle Reign. Solo says that she is not in the proper frame of mind to play the sport she loves. “Mentally,” she said, “I’m not there yet.”