Seattle Reign and U.S. Women’s Soccer goalie Hope Solo has been suspended by U.S. Soccer for six months. This follows controversial remarks she made after the U.S. lost to Sweden in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the Olympics in Rio.
Sports commentator Art Thiel tells KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick the action against Solo is too little, too late. And he says it highlights an even bigger problem with the Olympic Games.
Cowards Remark Was 'Dumb'
Solo called the Swedish team cowards. "That was really dumb," Thiel said.
"I know a lot of people will say, 'Hey, she's got a right to say whatever she wants.' And I'm not disputing that. But the tactics used by Sweden are accepted in international soccer and national soccer all the time when you have a mismatch of talent.
"The U.S. was far more talented than Sweden and so Sweden played a very defensive game. And it worked. Nothing in international soccer said that this was wrong," Thiel pointed out.
"The second thing was that Hope violated team protocol. There's a conduct rule that the United States Olympic Committee has for all its athletes. And certainly the U.S. Soccer Federation has one for the players in its charge.
"Calling the other team cowards is unsportsmanlike and, in this case, wrong. So, Hope Solo was way out of line and she deserved to be suspended.
"But I think U.S. Soccer was being hypocritical because of all the other things that preceded this."
Domestic Violence Issue
"She had an issue that still is unresolved when she was alleged to have attacked her half-sister and her son [Solo's nephew] in Kirkland," Thiel said.
"That was preceding the Olympics. And I know that, in a lot of U.S. sports now with the increased consciousness about domestic violence, they would have suspended the athlete.
"But Hope is still the best goalie the U.S. has so they suspended her after the last big event. There's not another big event on the U.S. Women's National calendar for 19 months.
"They closed the door after the circus left. And so, to me, that's just foolish," said Thiel.
Zika Photo 'Much More Rude'
"What Hope did that really irked the hosts: she posted on Instagram and Twitter a photo of her hotel bed covered with mosquito repellent and devices and screens and filters because she was so afraid of the Zika virus," Thiel continued.
"The Brazilians hated her for that. And I understand their contempt because she mocked something going on. And that was, to me, a much more rude thing to do," he said.
Countries Hampered By 'Olympic Bubble'
Thiel said the Hope Solo-Zika virus controversy speaks to a bigger issue of host country sensitivity.
"I watched Rio really overextend itself in a country that could not afford to host so logistically complex a Games," he said.
"I've covered nine Olympics - Summer and Winter - and I've seen the host cities and countries really strain and overreach and build facilities they don't need and go to great expense and trouble and then they wind up getting insulted.
"It's such a difficult enterprise because the Games are so big. And the alleged revenues really don't happen because there's what I call an Olympic bubble of the International Olympic Committee and all its big, multi-national corporate sponsors who basically exchange money.
"And the people on the ground don't get a lot of this. They get a little bump but, boy, do they spent a lot of money in taxes and dislocation to host these things," said Theil.
A Proposal For Change
"So, I say, let's confine this to four cities," Thiel said.
"This is not original with me but I'm really an advocate of saying let's let London, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Sydney host the Summer Games [in rotation].
"And then, for the Winter Games, Lillehammer, Norway, did it better than anybody, a place in the Swiss or French Alps and then someplace in the U.S. or Canadian Rockies and then maybe Nagano in Japan.
"I think that's a way to solve this without causing dislocation, disruption and overtaxing host countries and making them bitter for years afterwards."