Hope Solo Blunders Again and WPS Is Partly To Blame (Slightly Updated)

Hope Solo won’t be appearing in a WPS game for another six months and yet her name still appears in the headlines. The Atlanta Beat goalkeeper is the recipient of the costliest disciplinary fine ever handed out by WPS. This is just the second time a player has been hit with a monetary punishment and Solo’s $2,500 fine far exceeds the $250 Christine Latham had to shell out for a thrown elbow during the 2009 season.

Solo’s reprimand does not stem from a red card or an egregious foul, but rather from a Tweet – or more accurately, a series of Tweets. After the Atlanta Beat’s 1-0 loss to the Washington Freedom on Saturday, September 11th Solo took to Twitter and accused match officials of easing the Freedom’s passage to the WPS playoffs, as well as well as lambasting a controversial call. The following morning she criticized Freedom Public Relations Manager Jennifer Brunson for the wording of a press release.

The WPS Disciplinary Committee reviewed the situation and has decided to slap Solo with a $2,500 fine in addition to a one-game suspension and a mandated 8 hours of community service. Per WPS rules, Solo has the right to appeal the decision of the one-game suspension and the community service mandate within seven days. She can also appeal the monetary fine, seeing as it exceeds $250.

Some may question whether or not the punishment fits the crime. Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales was handed a measly $250 fine and a one-match suspension for physically striking Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso in an MLS match last Thursday. The comparison isn’t apples-to-apples but it might reveal the extent of Solo’s retribution. Other players have served terms of community service (most notably Solo’s Atlanta Beat teammate Kia McNeill who was hit with a four hour term on July 11 for dangerous play). The $2,500 fine is unprecedented, however.

Hope Solo will inevitably get the brunt of criticism for her latest diatribe. It also could not have come at a worse time for the league from a public relations standpoint. Solo texted her tweets mere hours after The Washington Post first leaked news of Tonya Antonucci’s departure from the league. WPS’ public image seemed to be sullied at all angles.

But perhaps WPS shares some responsibility in this as well. In some ways, Solo’s punishment might be interpreted as a make-up call by the league. Make-up calls are commonplace in soccer: a player commits a bad foul that escapes punishment from the referee. The player commits another bad foul and the referee serves the player with an especially stern punishment both for the most recent foul and the one that preceded it.

The analogy might be at play here. As WPS fans know, Solo has a prior history with this kind of thing. On August 4, Solo accused members of The Riptide, a Boston Breakers’ supporters group, of hurling racist comments towards the Atlanta Beat. Both teams dealt with the situation independently and issued a joint statement.

The accusations were never confirmed and Solo was not punished publicly – fines were not allotted, community service mandates weren’t doled out, Twitter accounts weren’t deactivated. A source close to the situation reveals that “League General Counsel [and soon-to-be WPS CEO] Ann-Marie Eileraas gave Solo a private warning on phone with [Atlanta Beat General Manager] Shawn McGee present on the call”. That was the extent of the reproof, however.

In the wake of Solo’s comments, a lull seemed to have descended upon other WPS players with active Twitter accounts. Reverberations were felt around the league.

It should also be noted that the Atlanta Beat never showed any interest in reprimanding Solo. It was clear that punishment for Solo’s inflammatory comments would have to come from the top and not the team level. The Beat stood behind their player throughout the event, leaving Solo undeterred to unleash another Twitter rant.

Atlanta Beat General Manager Shawn McGee had this to say to The Equalizer in August:

 

“There are two sides to every story and I can tell you that there were inappropriate and racist comments made by individuals at the match that were directed towards our Japanese players and Hope stood up for her teammates and what she did was to call out something that she believed in and she did not think was appropriate at any sporting event, much less a Women’s Professional Soccer game.  You know and I give her props and stand by her side and back her on what she did.  Having said that, we could have handled it a little more internally and we have certainly spoken with her and worked with the Breakers organization, who have been fantastic to work with and they are working very diligently to make sure that we don’t have any other recurrences like that at any other future games.”

 

Perhaps if the league – or the Atlanta Beat - had been more proactive about Solo’s punishment from the initial incident, the judgment wouldn’t have been so harsh this time around. WPS clearly failed to send a rigid message and hoped that a mere warning would be enough to keep gun powder away from a loose cannon. (There’s no need to mention the 2007 Women’s World Cup, right?)

This certainly doesn’t excuse Solo’s actions.  Regardless of whether or not Solo was correct in saying what she said about The Riptide, she got off easy. But rather than learning from her fortuitously lenient punishment, she upset the apple cart once again. Committing the same offense twice  perhaps reveals the worst kind of obstinacy.   

Other commentators seem to agree on this point: calling out match officials is one thing, but publicly censuring a league employee – by last name no less – is simply out of line. Solo’s ridicule of Jennifer Brunson came on the heels of a Tweet in which she did a similar deed to WPS Public Relations Consultant Robert Penner.  

With the ruling, WPS has drawn a clear line in the sand, declaring that it is not okay for its players to publicly undermine either league employees or match officials. But perhaps this could have all been avoided if WPS had taken a firmer stand sooner.

0 thoughts on “Hope Solo Blunders Again and WPS Is Partly To Blame (Slightly Updated)

  1. random

    I’m guessing that the punishment at least financially was so large due to the fact that she is multiple offender. The problem with Hope isn’t that she has her concerns, but that she voices them in a non constructive manner. I think if she really wanted change there are better ways to go about it.

    Reply
  2. kat

    I had the same suspicion, once the disciplinary action was announced, that maybe since the league wasn’t as proactive before, the punishment got a little harsh this time. Like a make-up call as you said.

    I do find her tweets entertaining, and seeing coaches and players complain about the officiating is nothing new (for the record, I was at the game, and the poor officiating was definitely not one-sided), but publicly attacking another team’s staff member is going over the line.

    Reply
  3. StarCityFan

    As the head of the Freedom’s supporter’s group and friends with key members of the Riptide, I was furious when Hope Solo got away with her previous accusation. I sent multiple emails to the league office and the relevant general managers insisting that the apology-free statement was grossly inadequate. So I can’t help feeling a certain amount of vindication with the present situation. I agree with you that if they’d handled the previous situation properly, they might well have avoided this one.

    Reply
    1. Jim D.

      I agree with Mr. StarCityFan, but as a public service to readers of this blog, I point out that there are TWO Freedom supporters’ groups, the Freedom Fighters (which Mr. SCF is the head of) and the Washington Bravehearts, which you can read all – or at least more than you’d ever care to – about here:

      http://allwhitekit.com/2010/07/09/show-your-support-the-washington-freedoms-bravehearts/

      The Freedom are awesome enough to have two groups! What other WPS club can say that?

      Reply
  4. Mike from Riptide

    Yeah. Still a bit upset about the “whether or not Solo was correct” stuff about Riptide but other than that, I agree.

    I wish Shawn McGee would say publicly what he said to Riptide directly in CT…

    Reply
  5. IBelieve

    WPS officials (including PR folks for specific teams, etc) are not above reproach. That this action was so totalitarian says that they think they are.

    Look at Seitz’s stats on her matches reffed across the league compared with the Atlanta stats on matches reffed across the league, and then compare that with her actions against Atlanta. It’s an eye-opener. That is where Solo’s accusations came from. Seitz is obviously biased against Atlanta and should not be allowed to ref their matches. I came to the same (entirely personal and not based on any legal claim) opinion about WPS – or at least Seitz – wanting to see Washington in the finals as Solo did about it (let me be clear – I am a Freedom fan, and several of my favorite players are on the team).
    Hence, the frustration vented by Solo (and several other players). I honestly would like to see Seitz’s stats against Atlanta, as well as the Washington/Atlanta game reviewed by the league/whomever is in charge of ref staffing.

    I just hope WPS hasn’t succeeded in running off one of their most popular players, as I am sure any of the longer-established, financially secure Euro leagues would be ecstatic to have Solo, and would compensate her well. While I still have my favorite teams (Go Freedom! Go Beat!) and players in the WPS (Wambach, Whitehill, Rampone, Chalupny), and will support them as such, for me, this has been a final souring on a league management that I didn’t have a high opinion of to begin with.

    Reply
    1. StarCityFan

      I just looked at Seitz’s 2010 refereeing activity. First off, I can only find four matches, two of which involved Atlanta. And, yes, she red-carded Atlanta players in both games, but the first one (in the July 3 match) was so blatant that the league suspended Kia McNeill for two games on top of the initial red-card suspension. So I don’t see at this point how a case can be made for Seitz – generally considered to be the best female referee in the US – being biased. In any case, referees are reviewed and critiqued after every match, and the coaches of each team have mechanisms to contribute to this.

      As for being above reproach, WPS has established means of criticizing referees and league personnel. Calling them out on Twitter is not among them and is in fact prohibited according to the League Operations Manual, something Hope Solo agreed to when she signed her contract. It’s particularly classless because she’s attacking a defenseless opponent – if Brunson started arguing back, she’d be fired on the spot.

      As for Hope Solo, I’d be just as glad if she never played in WPS again. I used to be a fan of hers and in fact was on her side in the 2007 contretemps. But at this point she’s trashed the fans, the league, the referees, and her fellow players while demonstrating all the maturity and class of a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Good riddance to her and anyone who still thinks she’s a positive influence.

      Reply
  6. Jackie, from Riptide

    I second Mike’s comments. Great article, Jenna. I always love your work. The “regardless of whether or not Solo was correct in saying what she said about The Riptide” comment is a perfect example of why Solo should be punished for the inflammatory things she says. We’ll probably never be able to fully separate ourselves from that false accusation, no matter what we do. I’m glad the league understands that such deeds should not go unpunished; I only wish they had figured it out sooner.

    Reply
  7. Soccafan

    Ah, that explains it- the Riptide is in effect. You guys need to get a life instead of focusing on Solo’s. It’s getting pathetic at this point.

    Reply
    1. StarCityFan

      We’ll get over it when people stop thinking that the Breakers’ most vocal and enthusiastic fans are a pack of racists. I’m still seeing snide remarks about the Riptide in blogs and hearing anecdotes about people walking past their tailgate and saying, “Oh, look, there are the racists.” But neither WPS nor the Atlanta Beat nor Hope Solo seem to care that there’s still a cloud hanging over innocent fans.

      Reply
      1. Soccafan

        People will think what they want to think. You can’t control what they think or what they say about you – only how you behave and respond. Any “cloud hanging over you” is imaginary – it doesn’t exist. If people look at your group and say “there are the racists”, would they be able to do it if the group were diverse? If you have members of other races, do they speak out and address the comments in a calm, dignified manner?

        You can look at Solo and blame everything on her, and say that she made your life bad in some way, or you can take what has happened and come out better for it. That’s what I mean when I say get a life and stop focusing on Solo.

        Reply
      2. blueskiesahead

        According to the message boards on BigSoccer, there are several Boston fans who pride themselves on “organized harassment” (quote). Look it up. Why be offended if someone calls you out on it? So you’re okay with Solo’s criticism of not standing for an organization who “so blatantly disrespects the athletes”? Because that’s what that board seems to convey – proudly, I might add.

        Reply
      3. StarCityFan

        The Riptide (of which I am not a member, I should make it clear, but I seem to be about the only independent ally they have) have immense respect for Hope Solo. They wouldn’t go to nearly such efforts to try to annoy some benchwarmer or journeyman player. And there is a world of difference between “organized harassment” and hate speech.

        As for Soccafan, he has clearly never been falsely accused of anything. False accusations have destroyed people’s lives. I don’t mean to put Solo’s accusations in the same category, but it’s ridiculous to say that one’s reputation – how people see you and think of you – doesn’t matter.

        Reply
      4. whoa_there_steady_on

        I have seen this “organized harassment” of the Riptide. It appears to extend to throwing streamers at the corner flag and telling the opposition they suck. Certainly a lot tamer than a baseball or MLS game.

        Reply
      5. Soccafan

        Actually, StarCity, I have been falsely accused, and badly maligned on more than one occasion (and continue to be in one specific case) – both professionally and personally. And I wasted a good year of my life worrying about the ongoing one (2 years now, by people I see every day), stressing about it, demonizing the people who did in my mind, etc. I will tell you what I learned – IT’S A MASSIVE, COLOSSAL, RIDICULOUS WASTE OF TIME that will get you nowhere. People do/say what they do/say. You can’t control them or what they think of you. It’s futile to try. When you demonize them, it only hurts YOU. When you slam them, go on the attack (even if you “think” you’re defending yourself), it only hurts you.

        In the ongoing case where the people continue to blast me and say things against me, about 6 months ago, I took the opposite tack from them and finally refused to say anything bad. I used it as an opportunity to improve how I think and handle things. I am not a saint by a long shot. But it worked in more ways than one. Now, I’m (just about) free from the mental junk caused by their actions – even the ongoing ones, and now, the people seeing their actions have seen the difference between them and me, and come to know the truth of it without me saying a word.

        Solo’s not going to apologize. She probably wouldn’t be allowed to if she wanted to, though she’s probably also painted herself into a corner on that one and wouldn’t anyway if she could or wanted to.

        So you have a choice – move on, or let it make you angry and bitter on a constant basis.

        Reply
      6. StarCityFan

        Well, I don’t lie awake at night worrying about what Hope Solo thinks of me (and I doubt any members of Riptide do, either). But I’m far from forgiving her, the Atlanta Beat, or the league for handling the situation so badly, and it does make it harder for me to support the league and the national team with the same degree of enthusiasm that I had before. Will I get over it? We’ll see.

        Reply
  8. Joely M

    “Good riddance to her and anyone who still thinks she’s a positive influence.” (StarCityFan)

    As a parent whose daughter waited over an hour while Solo talked to every child (and adult) requesting so, and signed every single requested autograph in the stadium for the last home game in Atlanta, I have to say that regardless of this incident, I believe she is a positive influence. Would you really like to be rid of me and my family from the games, Star City?

    People make bad decisions because we’re human. That’s part of what we do. How many mistakes have you made in a day? A week? A year? Since 2007? How many times have you spoken off the cuff to or about your wife/husband? Child? Friend? Coworker? Boss, even? The only difference between us and Hope is that she got caught and publicly spanked for it. And, that it seems that you feel it is appropriate to hate her for it – and all those who maybe hold to a bit higher ideal in our treatment of others (or are just Hope Solo fans) as well…?

    It’s sad to me that people are so quick to assume, to assign blame, to assign all of these qualities to someone they don’t know, as well as any of their supporters. And I find it even more sad thatI have to expose my daughter to people who would rush so quickly to judgment, be so resistant to forgiveness, and seem to take pride in treating people badly/hating them. I only hope the fans change substantially by the time my daughter (hopefully) gets to the level of play of some of these women.

    Hope Solo is a young (what, is she maybe 29 or 30?) woman who has seen some heavy loss in her life, has very publicly made mistakes for which she bore the brunt not only of peoples’ anger for her comments, but their anger and frustration at our loss of the WC in 2007 (which she had nothing to do with). She lacks maturity. The last time I checked, that was a quality that is pretty prevalent in a lot of young women nowadays. You people (Riptide in particular, but also others) have practically called for her crucifixion.

    What kind of example does that set for your children? It’s not one I want set for mine.

    Reply
    1. StarCityFan

      “How many times have you spoken off the cuff to or about your wife/husband? Child? Friend? Coworker? Boss, even?”

      Almost never, and if I do I have the good grace to apologize for it.

      “The only difference between us and Hope is that she got caught and publicly spanked for it.”

      The difference between me and Hope is that if I falsely accused one of my organization’s best customers of racism, I’d be lucky to keep my job. Hope, by contrast, got away with it scot-free and clearly considers herself free to slag off anyone else she feels like slagging off.

      My key issue, though, is not so much that Ms. Solo erroneously called some of my friends racists, but that she has never apologized for doing so and, more, neither the league nor the Atlanta Beat have made any move whatsoever to have her do so.

      I would forgive Hope Solo in an instant if she would just apologize for her rash statements against the Riptide and, more recently, against Freedom staffer (and friend of mine) Jennifer Brunson. But neither apology seems to be forthcoming. Until then, yes, I’m going to regard Ms. Solo with contempt since even basic human courtesy seems to be more than she can muster.

      Reply
    2. whoa_there_steady_on

      I am curious to know what the Riptide folks have said that is so egregious? From what I have seen they have defended themselves against a pretty dreadful slur and asked for an apology, but I haven’t seen them engage in personal attacks. It wouldn’t be that you are being “quick to assume, to assign blame, to assign all of these qualities to someone [you] don’t know, as well as any of their supporters.”? Disclosure: I am a Breakers fan (who doesn’t know any Riptide folks)

      Now StarCityFan’s (a Freedom supported) attack is a little more personal.. but its one person and hardly enough to make you give up your faith in humanity and run off to paranoiasville!

      Reply
  9. whoa_there_steady_on

    For what it’s worth I am a huge Solo fan. I am in the minority who think she was absolutely right to criticize Coach Ryan after the WC debacle. When/if she comes to Boston I and 4,000 fans will welcome her with open arms as we have done before. Sure it was hurtful to hear her say the organization I support is racist and so we as supporters are by association also racist. I’d have liked an apology for that but I’ll trust she doesn’t really think the Breakers and KKK are related. But ultimately Hope is my national team goalkeeper and the best in the world at what she does.

    Nonetheless, the Tweeting has to stop! It doesn’t help her, the league, the teams, the officials, the supporters clubs or the fans (except those who love the drama). I hate that the WPS has deigned to reprimand her in this way but I am not sure what choice they had since the Beat seems happy to allow Hope drive another hole in what increasingly looks like a sinking ship. The league needs all the help it can get right now and Hope (whether she knows it or not) has a lot of influence.

    Hope, Whitehill, Spilger and the rest of the Tweet-happies would serve us better if they were more constructive in how they deal with difficult situations. Because WPS Tweeters it’s not about you! I hate to use Abby Wambach as an example (she drives me nuts when she rolls around the pitch like the guys do) but off the field she just promotes promotes promotes and given how she gets bounced around during games there is plenty she could Tweet about. If the league fails, players like Wambach will sleep easy knowing they did everything they could to give your daughter a chance to play pro soccer.

    Reply
  10. Lauren Barker

    “With the ruling, WPS has drawn a clear line in the sand, declaring that it is not okay for its players to publicly undermine either league employees or match officials. But perhaps this could have all been avoided if WPS had taken a firmer stand sooner.”

    I think this is spot on. With everything else going on (mainly the reorganization of the league office), it seems like the policing of “public statements” got tossed to the wayside. After Chicago lost to SBFC in the season opener Emma Hayes had this to say: “good performance, disappointing result, shocking officiating – I’ll get fined for that as well” and indeed she was fined a few days later.

    At some point, the league became extremely lax in enforcing their policy towards disparaging statements made against officials, etc. and I think more than anything this was a case of the league office/disciplinary committee having a moment of “of crap, things have really gotten away from us!” and realizing they needed to rein in everyone before things got any more out of control. Agreement or not with the severity of the punishment aside, this sends a message to all the players, coaches and other team staffers that while the league may not have been paying attention, they certainly are now – and that if someone wants to speak out against a wrong – real or perceived – they better be prepared to put their money where their mouth is. I just hope this it isn’t a one time deal. I’ve said other places I’m all for players being able to speak their minds, I just hope that if they do they understand that there are consequences and that the league makes sure those consequences are going to be the same for everyone.

    It would be a shame for WPS to lose a player like Solo – regardless of what you think of her, she’s a world-class GK (plus, her outbursts get people talking, which in the long run is not the worst thing). She didn’t have the best season with Atlanta for sure, but really, who did? But more importantly, it would be a shame if Hope Solo’s twittering and punishment continued to overshadow the playoffs and championship.

    And as someone who’s made remarks about the Riptide in a blog posting that were interpreted as “snide” I’ll say this – the reaction from everyone, myself included, following that whole incident, left a lot to be desired. Both sides that could have handled the situation differently and continuing to bring it up isn’t going to change what happened. At the end of the day it’s only going to make us all look just as bitter and petty as we’re supposedly so angry at Solo for being.

    Reply
  11. Jim D.

    For the record, I love that Hope Solo is in the league. For true drama in sports, you need not only extraordinary athletes, but larger than life personalities: heroes AND villains. Hope can be any or all of the above, depending on the day and apparently, her mood. Who else in WPS is so much fun to cheer for/against? I know for a fact many of my fellow supporters mentally marked the schedule in anticipation of the games she played vs. the Freedom. If every WPS player were like her, the league would be absolutely mental (and not in a good way) but without her it’d be a lot less interesting. Several of the things she said were way over the line (calling out a Freedom staffer by name, especially) but it’s just grist for the mill, and being the subject of a Solo tweet-attack could even be considered something of a perverse honor.

    Reply

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