With preparations for this summer’s World Cup already underway, U.S. national team and Seattle Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo had more pressing matters on her mind, as she was set to stand trial on two counts of fourth-degree misdemeanor assault beginning next week. Today, she is breathing a sigh of relief as the charges, stemming from a June incident incident involving her half-sister and nephew have been dismissed.
According to court documents, a fight broke out between Hope Solo and her family members after her then-17-year-old, 6-foot-9, 280 pound nephew was angered by her comments that he was “too fat and overweight and crazy to ever be an athlete.” He then went after her with a broomstick, repeatedly hitting her in the head. Names were exchanged, and Solo’s half-sister intervened, and eventually all three found themselves in a physical confrontation. Solo’s nephew would walk away with visible scratches and ripped clothing. According to her lawyer, Todd Maybrown, Solo suffered a concussion as a result of the fight.
Court reports cite alcohol as a contributing factor to the incident. Solo was ordered to refrain from drinking and avoid contact with her nephew and half-sister. Solo repeatedly denied her family’s recount of the events and has maintained that she was a victim of assault that day, not the aggressor. A judge dismissed the charges against her, because –according to her lawyer — her accusers never agreed to give full interviews, and changed their stories when speaking to officials.
The dismissal clears the way for Solo to maintain her role as the U.S. net-minder this summer. At the time of the incident, fans, media and observers from outside the game questioned the propriety of her representing the country while this incident — added to a growing list of domestic cases — and charges hung over her head. Both U.S. Soccer and the Seattle Reign were criticized by some for what they believed to be too casual of an attitude, given the serious nature of what appeared to be a recurring theme in Hope Solo’s life. As she approached the all-time record for shutouts by a national team goalkeeper, calls for some kind of punishment for Solo grew, and many drew parallels between her cases and that on the NFL’s Ray Rice.
At the time, the core of the debate was what role the legal process should play in sports organizations’ decisions to keep players off the field. When was it fair or just to suspend Hope Solo? Opinions varied, with some believing that the mere fact that the incident took place was enough to remove her from her teams. Regardless of what actually took place, there were those who believed she had brought enough negativity to both club and country to warrant her temporarily dismissal, at the very least. Many believed that Solo should have been allowed to play until formal charges were brought against her. Others thought any interruption of her career before the legal process ran its full course and some kind of verdict was delivered would be uncalled for, and possibly set a poor precedent.
Case dismissals are often the result of some legal technicality, rather than the result of weighed evidence. By no means does this judge’s decision clear Hope Solo, or anyone else involved, of any wrongdoing. There are any number of reasons why a trial won’t take place. It’s easy to take a cynical approach and wonder what happened between June and December that made Solo’s relatives decide not to cooperate fully with law enforcement. Now that the charges against Solo have been dropped, it seems that most people are content to let her play, with the presumption that accusations against her weren’t solid enough to warrant a trial. But is that really the case?
We don’t know any more about the altercation between Hope Solo and her nephew and half-sister than we did a week ago. So why aren’t the same people who wanted her out in the fall still calling for her removal today?
The timing of Solo’s case, plus her approaching shutout record celebration, as well as the furor in the aftermath of the Ray Rice suspension bumbling by the NFL, made for a perfect national media storm. Outlets like Salon, Slate and the Atlantic all delivered think-pieces to the zeitgeist, and commentary on domestic violence, gender, and sport’s place in society were all the rage for a few weeks. Soccer Gods wasn’t exempt from this, as we had respected professor and author Jennifer Doyle on our show to discuss the situation. Then it disappeared. Why?
The answer to that is probably that most people just don’t care about the story anymore. News cycles are never ending and the end of 2014 offered us all more than enough major issues and discussion topics to fill our daily lives. Hope Solo fell by the wayside. Now, with this news of the dismissed charges, almost all of the story coverage seems to be fact-based. Details of the incident are retold, the judge’s decision is given, there’s a mention that Solo will be clear to continue playing, and that’s that. There’s no sign of the passionate opinion that filled news feeds — not even among soccer-specific media — about this case either at the time of its occurrence, or again in September, at the time of Solo breaking the record.
Is it because people incorrectly believe a dismissal of charges is some kind of innocence-proving resolution? Is it because they just aren’t interested in the story anymore? We may not know what our neighbors are thinking this time around, but we do know that Hope Solo will avoid punishment for the incident, either by the court system, her club soccer employer, or the national federation.