I am certainly in agreement with the cultural standard that the NFL is being forced, kicking and screaming, to define, that standard being that the professional sports organizations should not give the American public the opportunity to cheer physical abusers of domestic partners and children. ( The latest in the purge here.) Professional athletes are paid heroes, and we must choose our heroes well: they can inspire, but they also corrupt. It is not too much to ask athletes being paid millions, who have their faces and names emblazoned on merchandise, their forms plastered on children’s walls and their fame and popularity used to sell shoes and breakfast cereal, to model decent behavior. In fact, it is essential. The NFL’s corporate sponsors understand this even if the violence-addicted fools who run the league itself do not. (See: Cognitive Dissonance).
Will other respectable professional sports—the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, the PGA—have to follow football’s reluctant lead? I don’t see how they can avoid it. It will be interesting to see how the lesser sports, like professional bowling, and grittier, the macho sports like ultimate fighting and NASCAR handle this. It may well be that the definition of a respectable sport in this country will include whether it continues to promote stars who punch their family members and lovers in their faces and beat their illegitimate children with tree branches. To which I say, good. It’s a start.
That leaves the perplexing mystery, however, of Hope Solo.
Surely you know Hope. She is the tall, beautiful, sexy, outspoken female U.S. soccer star, one of the top goalies in the sport, who has won two Olympic gold medals and is one of the best known celebrities in the supposedly burgeoning sport the rest of the world calls football. She was on “Dancing With The Stars;” she posed nude in “ESPN Magazine’s “body issue.” She’s making sports page headlines on the field regularly, just like Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Last Saturday, for example, the United States women’s soccer team beat Mexico 8-0 in Utah, with Solo passing goalie Briana Scurry for the U.S. shutout record. She is also an alleged abuser. Solo was arrested and has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence in the assault of her sister and 17-year-old nephew,and is awaiting trial in November. Photos of the injuries to Solo’s sister and nephew were published in the news media (above–that’s Hope on the right).
If Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and other NFL stars recently suspended for abuse charges shouldn’t be out on the field being cheered—and they shouldn’t—neither should Hope Solo.[From USA TODAY: “In the waning moments of the U.S. women’s rout of Mexico, the crowd behind Hope Solo’s goal began chanting her name. They knew she was on the verge of making history. With the 8-0 U.S. victory, Solo, playing while facing domestic violence charges in Washington, collected her record 72nd shutout with the national team.“The best part about it is the best is yet to come,” she told cheering fans when the milestone was announced at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.”]
Nike just dropped Adrian Peterson, stating, “Nike in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind… We have suspended our contract with Adrian Peterson.” Nike has a contract with Solo too. Peterson has been charged with domestic violence, so has Solo. Neither has had a trial yet. Why is Nike still proud to have Solo promoted Nike products, while Peterson, who is an even bigger star in hn his sport than Solo is in hers, is now persona non grata? Because she’s hot? Because she’s white? Because women beating people up is OK?
Meanwhile, though the NFL’s leadership is being ridiculed, savaged, and portrayed as weak, Neanderthal cement-heads for repeatedly minimizing the significance of one football star after another being arrested for abusing women or children, here is U.S. Soccer rationalizing its head off trying to explain why Solo is still playing:
“We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at the moment. At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the National Team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way.”
1. Ah, the “personal situation” euphemism! Hey, it worked for Bill Clinton! I see women on every TV channel, sports and news shows both, mocking the men who run men’s professional sports—the NFL brass is bringing in a team of women to enlighten them regarding how unacceptable player domestic abuse is—but when a female star in a female sport is in exactly the same situation, what matters is her “hard work and dedication” (Bulletin! Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson work hard too!) and the fact that she could set a record?
2. “While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way.” You know what this double-talk means, right? “We want to win. Screw domestic abuse.”
Christine Brennan at USA Today and Joe Concha at Mediaite, are among the few journalists to do their due diligence and flag this hypocrisy regarding Solo. Brennan calling for her to be pulled from the team before the Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck even pulled out of the station, Concha pointing yesterday out the absurd double standard once the train was rolling. Ethics Heroes both.
What is the standard? That it’s only unacceptable for men who are charged with domestic abuse to keep playing? Only African American men? Only football players? Only black, male, athletes? I suspect Hope Solo could beat the tar out of you and me both, probably simultaneously: there is absolutely no justification for this white, gorgeous, soccer player not being treated exactly like Peterson and the other NFL stars who have been charged but not tried. She should be dropped by Nike. She should be suspended by her team, unless the position of feminists is that women can beat up whoever they want, and that’s empowering and social progress.
I would not be surprised if this is their attitude.
Graphic: KIRO TV