By Hannah Stohler
I will never forget watching Brandi Chastain score the 1999 World Cup winning penalty kick. Shot with her non-dominant left foot to confuse China’s goalie, the ball sailed flawlessly into the upper-right corner of the net. Chastain dropped to her knees, ripped off her shirt, and was tackled by her teammates. The United States had won.
However, what I still remember most about that goal was our celebration: my mom, sister and I hugged, screamed and celebrated as if we had scored the goal ourselves. We eagerly awaited the medal ceremony with tears in our eyes, proudly stood in front of the television and sang along to the National Anthem. At eight, I idolized these powerful female athletes. They were my heroes.
Flash forward 16 years and I am no less passionate about the Women’s World Cup. Not only is soccer still my favorite sport, but I ardently believe that playing sports builds self-esteem and empowers young women far beyond the playing field. However it is in this context, a life-long US Women’s National Team (USWNT) super-fan, that I must take a stand and say something I never thought I would: USWNT, I’m disappointed in you.
Hope Solo is arguably the best female goalkeeper in the world today, and is integral to her team’s success in this World Cup. However, amidst her current domestic violence allegations, she should not be on the field. The details of the case are complex, and frankly, not the point. What is notable and unacceptable is the league’s silence in the wake of the accusations. Domestic violence hides in the shadows of our society, and abusers thrive on this silence.
In the aftermath of the Ray Rice scandal, we criticized the NFL for their silence and challenged them not only to hold their players accountable, but to speak out as an advocate to end Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). It’s time we demand that the USWNT break their silence too. Hope Solo’s case reminds us that abusers and victims of violence transcend stereotypical categories of gender, race, age, religion, income and sexual orientation; that violence has no prejudice and affects all communities. However, it is also relevant that the majority of victims of SGBV are women and girls. As an organization with thousands of young female viewers, USWNT’s silence teaches survivors and bystanders to keep quiet too.
Our society cannot continue to prioritize athletic ability over accountability. Instead, professional athletes and professional leagues must take responsibility for the leverage and influence they have in people’s lives, and be agents of change against the culture of violence. Just as Hope broke the international record with 73 shutouts last year, we call upon the USWNT to speak out and #SHUTOUTSGBV.