Hope Solo and the double standards of women’s athletics

Christine Weeks, Contributing Writer

The United States has embarrassed itself once again at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. First came Gabby Douglas’ lack of patriotism as she neglected to place her hand over her heart during the national anthem, and next came the destruction of property by Ryan Lochte. Now, U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo’s comments after the team’s loss to Sweden is another blemish on the United States’ reputation.

Solo is a legend not only in the world of soccer, but in athletics in general. She is considered one of the best female goalkeepers in the world, has brought the U.S. to win gold, and even wrote a memoir. All of these things contribute to how the world views Solo, why the U.S. loves her, and how her influence in the world of sports serves as an inspiration to many–especially young, hopeful female athletes. Solo is a natural role model.

However, compared to most women, she is a different type of role model: she is the tough, leading woman of the soccer world and her personality is resilient and competitive, which is particularly evident in her playing style. Some might claim that her personality traits explain the incident that transpired at the Rio Olympics. Solo, in an outburst of anger after losing to Sweden’s team, deemed them “cowards.” The repercussions of this insult were immense.

Would shouting out that the opposing team is full of cowards be a mark of poor sportsmanship? Yes. It did not, however, deserve the steps that followed: Solo was suspended and then contractually terminated as an athlete for the national team. Although Solo was persecuted, Spanish male soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo made similar comments against the Icelandic team at the Euro 2016 tournament in June and faced hardly any backlash.

Most people believe that the outcome of this impropriety conveys the double standard faced by female athletes. Where men are congratulated for their tough demeanors and encouraged to be aggressive, women like Solo are scrutinized and even face professional consequences for acting competitive.

While some consider Solo’s release to be an appropriate repercussion for her actions, this take on the subject still overlooks the misogyny that women like Solo face in the world of sports.

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