The tense relationship between U.S. Soccer and Hope Solo has taken a dramatic turn.
Solo has been suspended from the U.S. national team for six months because of her comments following the Americans’ loss to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals, U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday, with the federation citing “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.”
The 35-year-old criticized a Sweden side led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage earlier this month in Brazil, blasting the defend-and-counter approach that led to a 1-1 draw before the Americans were eliminated in penalties.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Solo said postgame . “But I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that.”
The goalkeeper served a 30-day suspension in early 2015 after an incident that saw her husband, former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens, charged with driving under the influence while at the wheel of a U.S. Soccer van during a training camp in Carson, California.
“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,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a news release. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.
“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.”
Solo has drawn headlines for the wrong reasons since the 2007 World Cup, when she famously slammed then-U.S. coach Greg Ryan for benching her ahead of a semifinal loss to Brazil.
The Seattle Reign veteran also has been in the news for an ongoing domestic violence case following a June 2014 incident in which she has been accused of striking her half-sister and then-17-year-old nephew.
Solo, who has compiled 202 caps, was named the top goalkeeper at the 2011 and 2015 World Cup tournaments. In July, she became the first goalkeeper in international history to compile 100 shutouts.
In a statement to Sports Illustrated , Solo revealed that U.S. Soccer terminated her contract with the federation as part of the punishment.
“For 17 years, I dedicated my life to the U.S. women’s national team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how — with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country, but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes,” Solo said. “In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the federation’s decision to terminate my contract.”
Richard Nichols, the executive director of the players union that represents the women’s national team, lambasted the decision and confirmed an appeal will be filed on Solo’s behalf.
“Given the cited 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,” Nichols told SI.com . “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.”
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