Everything seems to have a face these days, such as the quarterback who might be the “face of his team” or some business executive serving as the “face of the company.”
So what happens when a “face” of domestic violence is not the bullying man who beat up his cowering wife or girlfriend, but the goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team now competing in the World Cup tournament in Canada?
We as a society seem able to deal with the stereotype that domestic violence is exclusively a male domain, but can’t accept a woman being implicated.
Pro football players such as Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson routinely are suspended, with no questions asked, when they are accused of violent acts. Yet Hope Solo continues to ply her trade on an international stage as a goalkeeper, the most high-profile position on her team.
No one should be making excuses or feeling any sympathy for people such as Rice, who was caught on tape beating his then-girlfriend unconscious in a casino elevator in February 2014. Although criminal charges filed against him as a result were dismissed last month by a judge in Atlantic City, New Jersey — after the NFL running back successfully completed a pre-trial intervention program — the horrendous nature of his act will never be erased from the public consciousness.
Along with the moral implications of what Rice did, its dire impact on his playing career can’t be overlooked. The footage of the beating prompted the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely, and though he won an appeal of that action last November and became eligible to play again, no team has been compelled to give him another chance.
There are allegations Rice is being blackballed from the league, while other reports suggest that productivity is a factor, since he was averaging less than 3 yards per carry when he last played.
Hope Solo, on the other hand, is an Olympic gold medalist and a bona fide star of the U.S. women’s soccer team, which fuels the implication that along with gender bias, whether one is suspended or not depends on how important they are to winning. That, of course, reeks of hypocrisy in an environment where getting that “W” is the most important thing.
Solo was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault in the fourth degree on June 21, 2014, one against her half-sister and the other against her nephew. After pleading not guilty, she was released the next day.
Although Solo sat out one game after her arrest with the regular soccer team she plays on, the Seattle Reign, the National Women’s Soccer League it is a part of permitted her to continue playing through the end of the 2014 season.
In January, a judge dismissed the assault charges against Solo, not based on the merits of the case but a lack of cooperation from both alleged victims. This has been a frequent result of domestic-violence incidents, such as when a battered wife presses charges but later declines to testify against her husband for one reason or another.
Hope Solo’s career has kept on keeping on in large part, and one wonders how a male athlete would have been treated under the same circumstances.
This all reflects what’s occurring in society as a whole, not only where domestic violence is concerned but other situations.
For example, we are satisfied with the stereotype of child molesters or sexual predators being beady-eyed men in trench coats who pounce on their victims in the dark of night.
We have more trouble accepting it when the sex offenders are teachers, coaches, scout leaders or church officials — which all too often is the case.
And when the term racist is used, it usually conjures up images of Southern rednecks wearing KKK robes, whenever all racial and ethnic groups are guilty of racism to some degree.
Underscoring these situations is the fact that in today’s day and age, no one can go wrong by blaming men for any or all of society’s ills, particularly white men.
On the other hand, it is assumed that a woman, a member of a minority group or a gay person is incapable of doing anything wrong nowadays.
Therefore, treating Hope Solo the same as male athletes charged with domestic violence not only would upset the feel-good story of U.S. women’s soccer, but challenge the politically correct status of one of those Teflon-coated flavor-of-the-month groups.
Tom Joyce is staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.