Insult the Team of Another Country and Get Banned, Insult Your Own Country and Get Playing Time
Anybody who follows soccer, and especially the U.S. Women’s National Team, certainly heard about the row Hope Solo found herself in at the Olympics last month. She came out after an emotional loss to Sweden and called out the Swedish team as “cowards,” going on to explain her comment in more depth after making it. The result? U.S. Soccer terminated her contract with the national team and banned her from the team for six months.
Last week, as the U.S. Women’s National got ready to take on Thailand in an international friendly in the United States, Megan Rapinoe decided to kneel as the United States national anthem was played. While wearing the national team uniform. Before a national team game. Surely, the powers that be in U.S Soccer would come down hard in this case, too, right? I mean, after all, she had just disrespected the country she was going to represent that day!
And just how did the coach and U.S. Soccer respond? Rapinoe was subbed in at halftime and played the entire second half of the game. Yep. Not a word was said – at least publicly – to admonish her choice to disrespect her own country and its flag, while representing that country in competition.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for freedom of expression, whether that be in speech or peaceful, lawful, symbolic action. As someone who has spent a majority of my career in the media, I understand how important and valuable it is to be able to express yourself and your views in our free society.
My issue here is that, while U.S. Soccer chose to severely punish one of the members of its team for comments about the opposition of another country, they didn’t even seem to raise an eyebrow at the way another chose to disrespect the very country that gives her the freedom to do what she does, both on and off the field.
If you’re going to punish one player for expressing themselves in a way that could be seen by some as negative while representing your team, why aren’t you punishing the other? It’s not a question of right or wrong here. It’s simply a matter of consistency…