Fallout from Poor Choices by Olympic Athletes

You probably thought I was done writing about the 2016 Olympics by now. Guess what… I thought I was too! I was totally going to ignore the whole Ryan Lochte thing and not write about it because it makes me so damn mad, but then I saw this headline about Hope Solo, the goalie for the U.S. women’s soccer team, and here we are.

Soccer happens to be one of the Olympic sports that I really don’t follow at all, although I’m not really sure why. I have lots of friends who like soccer, it was the one sport that I wasn’t totally pathetic at in gym class, and I’ve been making something of an effort to follow the U.S. women’s national team’s (USWNT) attempts to earn pay and benefits equal to the men’s team (since, you know, the women have been playing way better than men in recent years and also way more people have been watching the women’s games than the men’s). But I didn’t pay any attention to soccer during this past Olympics, other than picking up headlines about how the U.S. didn’t take any golds and Brazil just about exploded when their men’s team beat Germany, so I was unaware of Solo having made a public statement about how Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards.”

Apparently many people who know soccer agree with her statement, but the organizations represented by Solo are having kittens, and she was just suspended for six months by U.S. Soccer and had her contract terminated by the U.S. women’s national team (I guess those are separate entities?). Apparently she previously received a shorter suspension for having been a passenger when her husband was charged with a DUI (is that customary?) and also was charged with two fourth-degree counts of domestic violence stemming from an incident with her half-sister and her half-sister’s teenage son, so I guess U.S. soccer sees her as a repeat offender. I agree that her comment about Sweden was inappropriate; when you’re on the payroll for a major sports team, sometimes you have to bite your tongue in public. Honestly, though, this seems like serious overkill, and considering that Solo is 35, it makes me wonder if U.S. Soccer is trying to force her to end her career. The executive director for the USWNT player’s association is wondering “whether this action would ever have been taken against a male player or coach, who, in the heated moments after a frustrating defeat, questioned the tactics of the opposing team,” and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t one of my first thoughts about the issue. (This quotation and the other info about this story came from this Washington Post article.)

So let’s contrast the Hope Solo situation with the Ryan Lochte situation. Lochte and three other male U.S. swimmers went out partying in Rio, got drunk, and vandalized a gas station. Then Lochte made up a bogus story, which he told to a reporter on camera, about how their cab was pulled over and they were robbed at gunpoint. Lochte, despite having a history of being one of the world’s biggest douchebags, is one of the best-known faces of the U.S. Olympic team, and this year was his fourth Olympics. I was taught starting in elementary school that every time I went out in public with a group or team, I was representing my school, my church, my city, my state, etc. The fact that Lochte thought lying about a crime was an okay way to represent the United States of America to the world is 100% inexcusable (and if he wasn’t thinking, then that’s inexcusable too).

And yet…after it came out that Lochte had lied and deliberately tried to make Brazil look bad (remember when we were all freaking out about how badly Brazil was going to eff everything up? They really did a pretty good job, overall), Mario Andrada, the communications director for the Rio Olympics, said at a press conference, “No apologies from [Lochte] or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions you regret later. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.” (I don’t think being 32 years old qualifies Lochte as a kid anymore; how about you?) Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said “Further action [against the swimmers] will be coming,” but that was several days ago, and no further action by the USOC has been made public. At least four of Lochte’s corporate sponsors, Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal, and a mattress company called Airweave, have cut ties with him, with Speedo vowing to donate the rest of the $50,000 it owes him to Save the Children in Brazil. Al Roker got into an argument, on air, on the Today Show with Billy Bush, the reporter who originally aired Lochte’s phony story about the robbery, with Roker insisting that Lochte lied to multiple people and embarrassed the host country, while Bush continuously tried to cover for Lochte, and now NBC executives are mad at Roker for speaking the truth. Brazilian police have literally charged Lochte with a crime, albeit a minor one, and nobody with any real authority is doing anything to condemn the situation he created.

LochteGate is starting to remind a whole lot of people of the story of another swimmer who made the news earlier this year, Stanford’s Brock Turner, who received a minor sentence in a local jail after committing a violent rape. That story pretty much proved to the world that if a wealthy, white, male breaks the law in the U.S., he’ll receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The fallout from Lochte’s lies and false reporting of a crime just reinforces that standard, and all of this spills over into the consciousness of the general public. One of the first commentors on the article about Hope Solo linked above said, “She should be the biggest embarrassment for the US followed by Lochte” (emphasis added). So the fact that Hope Solo could have chosen better words to express her frustration with Sweden’s playing style is worse than Ryan Lochte repeatedly lying and actually committing a crime?

If this is the kind of world we live in these days, I need someone to hit the stop button — I want to get off now.

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