The e-mail arrived with this screaming headline: "GOALKEEPER HOPE SOLO ON VERGE OF BREAKING U.S. WNT ALL-TIME SHUTOUT RECORD," featuring a page chock full of statistics and facts from Solo's 14-year international career. A Facebook post from U.S. Soccer reiterated the happy possibility that Solo could break the record in the U.S. women's national team's next match, a game against Switzerland on Wednesday night in Cary, N.C.
Solo, 33, is known for more than soccer these days, unfortunately. She has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence in the assault of her sister and 17-year-old nephew, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in November.
These are disturbing charges against one of the more famous role models in women's sports, coming at a time when the issue of domestic violence has become a focal point for the nation after the terrible Ray Rice video and his controversial two-game suspension from the NFL.
Nonetheless, U.S. Soccer, the national governing body for the sport in the United States, decided to go ahead with its promotion of Solo this week.
What a mistake this is.
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This is not the time for U.S. Soccer to be celebrating Solo and her accomplishments. It is the time for Solo to be dealing with her personal and legal issues far away from the soccer field. She has been convicted of no crimes, but neither was Michael Phelps when USA Swimming suspended him for three months in 2009 after a picture surfaced of him smoking a marijuana pipe.
It is a privilege, not a right, to represent the United States on the international sports stage. USA Swimming immediately realized that, and Phelps did too, accepting his punishment without complaint.
U.S. Soccer and Solo should follow that example. Hopefully her departure would be voluntary, with no need for a suspension. Soccer is an understandable escape for Solo, but with a criminal trial upcoming, she should be focusing full-time on getting whatever guidance she needs before she returns to soccer, pending the outcome of her trial, of course.
This is a big year coming up in women's soccer, with the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, and U.S. team qualifying this fall. The Americans need Solo every which way imaginable. But that sporting concern pales in comparison to what's going on in her troubled life.
In an e-mail Tuesday evening, U.S. Soccer defended its decision to honor Solo.
"We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at the moment," said Neil Buethe, U.S. Soccer director of communications. "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."
There is no national governing body on earth that has meant more to women and girls than U.S. Soccer. The U.S. national soccer team is the most famous women's team in the world – in any sport. Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, among others, have been retired from the national team for nearly a decade, yet they still are household names, and not just in the United States. Soccer and Title IX have grown up together, from the glories of the 1999 Women's World Cup onward.
So what kind of message does this send to the millions of girls and women the U.S. national team has empowered and inspired over the past couple of decades? That alleged domestic violence is somehow different and less alarming when the alleged abuser is a woman?
It's awful for any organization to be implying such a thing in the 21st century. That it's coming from U.S. Soccer makes it all the more disappointing. This is a governing body that definitely knows better.