There was a great deal of coverage of domestic violence and sports in 2014.
American football held most of the spotlight, with the likes of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer, Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald earning suspensions. The public has begun to question the sport’s violent implications. While the discourse has focused on American football, one of soccer’s best, Hope Solo, is guilty of beating two relatives in June. Many have complained that her crime and U.S. Soccer have hid behind the National Football League (NFL)’s attention and not received the punishment or surveillance they demand.
The fallout of Solo’s situation has involved less scrutiny than that of the NFL players. Nike cut endorsement ties with all of the athletes, except Solo. While the football players are serving major suspensions, Solo only sat out for thirty days. In fact, after the news of her misconduct had surfaced, U.S. Soccer still allowed her to play wearing her yellow captain’s band and even honored her with a ceremony during her record-setting 73rd shutout.
US Soccer Federation spokesman Neil Buethe said in August: “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.’’
The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser described this reaction as “the crowning disgrace of the sports world”.
What those crying, “double standard!”, are guilty of is a false analogy; they fail to note critical differences between the two cases. While Ray Rice’s punch knocked his fiancé out cold, Solo only left her nephew with a bloody ear and her half-sister with a bruise. While the built Solo stands over the 5 foot 8 inch Rice at 5 foot 9, she cannot match his 212 pounds of muscle. Solo is considered big in her sport, and Rice is relatively small in his stature. Still, Rice’s one punch caused more damaged than Solo’s rampage did.
A man striking a woman is different than a woman striking a man. One continues a treacherous history of abuse, and the other stands as a rarity. As Slate’s Amanda Hess notes, “the perpetrators of domestic violence are overwhelmingly male”.
Similarly, a football player guilty of domestic violence is different than a soccer player guilty of the crime. The former adds to a disturbing trend in a fundamentally violent sport, while the other does not. Soccer certainly incites its fair share of riots and often violent discord, but does not deserve the same examination that football does. If you search “football domestic violence” on google, a slew of names and cases appear. If you type “soccer domestic violence”, you will only read about Hope Solo.
While Hope Solo must be held accountable for her drunken violence, and not be acquitted of blame, the public should avoid any grand conjectures about the sport of soccer’s role as a perpetuator of violence. Save that for the NFL.