Was Hope Solo’s Union Activism Behind Her USA Soccer Team Suspension?

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Hope Solo didn’t need much time to conclude there’s more to her suspension from the United States women’s national soccer team than meets the eye.

The soccer superstar told documentary series “Full Screen” that her role as a labor leader among Team USA’s players is the primary reason why the U.S. Soccer Federation suspended her for six months and terminated her contract, according to FOX Sports. Solo suggested U.S. Soccer’s stated reason for her suspension — calling Sweden “cowards” after it eliminated Team USA from the 2016 Rio Olympics in the quarterfinals — was a mere cover story for what amounts to retaliation.

“They’re going to use my comments as an excuse to get rid of me forever so that they don’t have to deal with such a strong voice and opposition to field conditions and playing conditions and pay,” Solo said. “I think I’m just a thorn in their side and it’s time for them to cut their losses.”

Solo’s suspension comes amid the most contentious collective bargaining negotiation between the players and U.S. Soccer in a generation. Solo is one of five leading players who filed a gender-discrimination complaint against the federation to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year, and some players openly discussed boycotting the Olympics in the months leading up to the tournament.

Video of Solo’s immediate reaction to her suspension — an expletive-laden quip — went viral last week on the Internet. After composing herself and reflecting on the situation, Team USA’s longtime starting goalkeeper determined she’s now paying the price for fighting for equality.

“Seventeen years on this team, and then to be treated this way in the end is not surprising from U.S. Soccer, to be honest,” Solo said. “I feel like I’m being pushed out because it can’t be based off performance, my health. It can’t be based off anything but they don’t like me, because they know I’ve been fighting so hard for equal pay.”

Whether Solo ever returns to Team USA is in considerable doubt, and her argument will make her future in the sport even cloudier. Nevertheless, we can’t dismiss her accusation as “sour grapes” and move on from the story — something U.S. Soccer simply decided against doing following her outburst against Sweden.

Thumbnail photo via Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports Images

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