Soccer

USA's Hope Solo gets 6-month ban for calling Swedish players 'cowards'

U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Hope Solo has taken an indefinite leave from the Seattle Reign of the National Women's Soccer League less than a week after being suspended for six months by the U.S. national team for disparaging remarks about Sweden.

Goalkeeper takes leave from professional team

Hope Solo won't be in net for the United States until at least February 2017. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Hope Solo has taken an indefinite leave from the Seattle Reign of the National Women's Soccer League less than a week after being suspended for six months by the U.S. national team for disparaging remarks about Sweden.

The move was announced Saturday by the Reign, saying that the Olympic goaltender has been granted personal leave. The team did not say how long Solo would be away.

Solo's suspension from the national team was for conduct "counter to the organization's principles," according to the United States Soccer Federation.

"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," Sunil Gulati, the organization's president, said Wednesday in a statement.

"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 honour those principles, with no exceptions."

The suspension is effective immediately for the 35-year-old from Richland, Wash.

Solo called Sweden a "bunch of cowards" after the Swedes beat the U.S. 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

Sweden's coach Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. team to gold medals in Beijing and London, replied by stating: "It's OK to be a coward if you win."

Solo, who was previously suspended for 30 days early in 2015, will not be eligible for selection to the national team until next February. 

"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," Gulati added.

Solo said she was "saddened" by the decision in a statement on her Facebook page .

"I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven't made the best choices or said the right things," she said. "My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women's game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game."

Solo was a lightning rod during the Olympic tournament, irking fans in Brazil when she posted a photo of herself covered with mosquito netting and armed with insect repellant on social media. Fans booed her mercilessly and hollered "Zika!" each time she kicked downfield.

Domestic violence charges

Last month, she became the first goalkeeper with 100 international shutouts when the United States defeated South Africa 1-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was also her 150th career win.

Solo won her second straight Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper at the FIFA Women's World Cup a year ago. Over the course of the tournament in Canada, she had five clean sheets and allowed only three goals in seven games.

Solo was among the U.S. players who filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination, saying the men's national team players have been paid much more than many on the women's team, which for years has out-performed the U.S. men on the international stage.

More recently, she's called for better conditions for players in the National Women's Soccer League.

She was charged with misdemeanour domestic violence offences after a 2014 incident at her sister's home, when the goalkeeper was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo said she was a victim in the altercation. Earlier this year, an appeals court in the state of Washington rejected Solo's request to avoid a trial.

With files from CBC Sports

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