Hope Solo's fight for equality continues, both in her own lawsuit against U.S. Soccer and in the media
It's been a while since Hope played solo soccer - more than four years since her sudden and controversial fall from the U.S. women's team ended her career as a goalkeeper. She went on with her life, giving birth to a boy and girl with husband Jerramy Stevens in March and enjoying farm life in North Carolina.
But even if Solo, arguably the greatest goalkeeper of all time, should supposedly not be in the limelight, she remains relevant in the football world. It's not just her role in the fight against US football for equal pay or her work as a broadcast analyst for BeIN Sports that keeps her name in the news.
It is you.
"More people are interested in my life, have twins and fight for equal pay than me ..." she told Yahoo Sports before cutting herself off as if she were at a loss. "I haven't been in the game for a while, so I have to smile that we're still in Hollywood magazines because we have twins and the like."
That won't change anytime soon.
Even after years outside the game, parts of her career resonate and keep her talking, whether it's her recent Hall of Fame nudger or her still-viable lawsuit against US football.
Hope Solo is still fighting for equality, both in her own lawsuit against US football and in the media. (Photo by Sam Wasson / Getty Images)
Solo's equal pay lawsuit continues - and it could help the USWNT settlement
When Solo first learned that a judge had dismissed the wage discrimination case filed by her former USWNT teammates earlier this year, she was dejected.
The lawsuit wasn't hers - she has her own case against the United States Football Association, which she first filed, that remains unsolved - but it was discouraging news nonetheless. She immediately called the USWNT's chief legal advisor, Jeffrey Kessler, to find out what went wrong.
"We had a meeting and asked him why in the world this happened," she says. “We had my lawyers analyze the summary judgment and believe there are some loopholes. I've said to my teammates several times: We can't just rely on lawyers. We have to read every document - we have lived this life and know the details - and I'm afraid they have relied too much on the lawyers. "
Solo's case, which she filed seven months before the USWNT high-profile player pool was announced by the USWNT collective player pool, is very similar to the case that caught most of the attention and was dismissed in May. In both trials, it is argued that US football paid national players more than women for the same work through larger performance bonuses.
But in the USWNT's case, the judge didn't even think it deserved a trial and ruled that the women were actually paid more than the men. The USWNT has vowed to appeal the dismissal, but other parts of the lawsuit have yet to be brought to justice before this can be done. This process has been delayed by the pandemic.
Solo's case, meanwhile, remains intact. Although the USWNT case is a class action, which means Solo could join as a plaintiff, it has denied it. Her case is stronger, she says, because she never signed the 2017 collective bargaining agreement that is at the heart of the USWNT's lawsuit.
"With players waiting a year to file [their lawsuit] and sign their current CBA, which wasn't synonymous, which wasn't wise in this overall battle, their class action lawsuit was dismissed in a summary judgment," says Solo. "The judge didn't even want to hear oral arguments. That was a dagger to the heart.
"I didn't sign up because I didn't think it would put me in the best position to know that the current players agreed to this CBA, the same CBA we fought for so long not to agree "she adds. "That puts her in a different position than me because I never agreed to this CBA."
Indeed, on his dismissal, the judge found that a "negotiating history" showed that the USWNT did not want the same CBA as the men in 2017 and "cannot now retrospectively consider their CBA to be worse".
However, Solo believes that for all its differences and similarities, her case can help her teammates reach an agreement with U.S. football.
"The Olympics are next year, and US football doesn't have a good reputation with the players and many of their sponsors until they pay the women right away. So I think there may be a solution," she says. "But I also know that the players can use my case to solve it because my case is still there and the association is not happy that I haven't settled it yet."
U.S. football attorneys have announced that they will move the Solo case to be dismissed once the USWNT case summary judgment is finalized on appeal. But with the backlog caused by the pandemic, that could still be a long way off.
Solo's case remains in the background of any settlement negotiations for the time being.
"There are a lot of things that we can negotiate and there is potential for, but it really just matters where US football is right now," she says. "With your new advice, you have to start ticking things off your list."
Solo switches from news maker to news commentator
Solo's litigation is an extra-curricular activity, but even her new job as a studio analyst at BeIN Sports advocates equality.
While many networks have traditionally got female analysts to talk about the women's game, most of Solo’s work for BeIN Sports on several studio shows has focused on La Liga, the prestigious Spanish men's league. She is often accompanied on broadcasts by another woman, former Canada international Kaylyn Kyle.
"There aren't enough female analysts," says Solo. "That's what I loved about BeIN - nobody questioned it. Kaylyn and I will be in the studio, two female analysts next to maybe a male analyst, or sometimes it's just the two of us and we've made history for BeIN. There is no other shows with two female analysts for a man's game. "
For fans who have followed Solo's career, a post-game transition to a media role seemed like an obvious fit. The 39-year-old's penchant for brutal honesty has always fascinated audiences.
It didn't exactly help her football career. She was briefly kicked off the team after calling in coach Greg Ryan about his bizarre decision to bench her at the 2007 World Cup. And in 2016, her USWNT career came to an end after she said the Swedish team played like a bunch of cowards at the Olympics and US football canceled their contract.
Hope Solo tries with BeIN Sports to exceed the broadcasting limits. (Via BeIN Sports)
But as an analyst, such openness, combined with being well known, can be beneficial. Her earliest introductions to the media side of the sport included a little where she made fun of Lionel Messi's alleged tax evasion, U.S. football, the USWNT's CBA, and even herself.
Before switching to a serious analyst, however, Solo insists that she needs to make sure that she is fit for it. After all, she had been the best on the soccer field for years, so she wanted to know she could be the best on a studio set too.
"I didn't really want to do things if I wasn't great at them," she says. "I've seen a lot of commentators come and go just because they had a name on the US women's team. That's why they got a job as a commentator." I wanted to make sure I was prepared like I did. "
She did it well enough that BeIN Sports put her on a handful of shows, including pregame, halftime, and post-game coverage for La Liga as well as the network's flagship show, "The Soccer XTRA," and a Facebook show called "Sports Burst". ”
BeIN Sports' top football traits are the men's leagues, especially Spanish La Liga and French Ligue 1, as well as some World Cup qualifiers, but that goes well with Solo.
Her very first analyst job was reporting the 2018 Men's World Cup for an Irish network alongside older British men, which she admits intimidatingly. "I had to overcome my insecurities," she says. But she quickly realized that she could analyze the game just as well.
"It's no different from the women's game," she says. "The speed may be a little different, but in terms of tactics, individual skills, different coaching scenarios, formations, nothing really changes."
For Solo, like everyone else, much of their orbit was in limbo because of the pandemic - their equal pay lawsuits were delayed and a temporary interruption to work on site at the BeIN studios. For all the uncertainty, however, it remains clear that Solo is not going to disappear from the public eye anytime soon, whether she likes it or not.
When asked how to strike the balance between messages and comments, Solo says it's not difficult to do. If magazines want to write about their personal life, it is up to them and out of their control.
"I don't really mind," she says. "We live our private lives here in North Carolina.
"And trust me," she adds with a laugh, "I hate to admit it, but I don't read any articles about myself. I think every time I do it, I get angry."
Caitlin Murray, a Yahoo Sports contributor, has published her book on American women's national team, The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Football. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinmurr.
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