In honor of the start of the Women’s World Cup this week and the U.S. women’s national team’s first game against Australia on Monday, we’re rebooting our series on the biggest jerks on the world sporting stage. First up, one of the stars of Team USA.
Nominee: Hope Solo
Home country: USA
Known for: Goalkeeping, inebriation, bellicosity.
Why she might be a jerk: Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. team, is a great athlete. She is also an abrasive and unpleasant lush who lives her life like a reality television contestant who wants the whole world to know that she’s not here to make friends. Solo established her jerk credentials during the 2007 World Cup, when she blasted her coach for benching her in favor of veteran goalkeeper Briana Scurry in a semifinal match against Brazil, which the U.S. ultimately lost 4-0. “It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves,” Solo announced. Tearing down your teammates in public is a classic jerk move, as is having no doubt in your mind about counterfactual outcomes.
Solo’s worst and most notorious moment, though, came when she reportedly physically attacked family members in their own house. In June 2014, Solo was arrested for allegedly getting drunk and assaulting her 17-year-old nephew and her half-sister. According to a police report acquired by ESPN’s Outside the Lines and published for the first time over the weekend, Solo told her nephew that he was “too fat and overweight and crazy to ever be an athlete.” She also informed the teenager that he was “a pussy,” according to the report, and then started punching him in the head; soon thereafter, Solo allegedly started punching her half-sister.
Solo’s nephew called 911 and said that “Hope Solo is going psychotic; she’s f—king beating people up, and we need help.” The police came and arrested her; later, according to a jail report acquired by Outside the Lines, a profane and apparently drunk Solo berated police officers and jail personnel, announced that the necklace she was wearing “was worth more than [the officer] makes in a year,” and informed one officer that “you’re such a bitch you’re scared of me because you know that if the handcuffs were off I’d kick your ass.”
If that behavior makes you think of other infamously awful athletes, you’re not alone. “She is not Tonya Harding, until her blood chemistry is altered,” New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy wrote of Solo earlier this year. The trouble is that her blood chemistry is often altered. After the Beijing Olympics’ closing ceremonies in 2008, Solo and her teammates partied all night with actor Vince Vaughn and appeared on the Today show the next morning, still drunk. This January, Solo was suspended from the U.S. national team for 30 days after husband Jerramy Stevens—a former pro football player who had faced his own allegations of domestic assault against Solo—was arrested on suspicion of DUI after being stopped while behind the wheel of a U.S. Soccer team van. Solo was in the van with Stevens at the time, and, according to TMZ, “was belligerent with the arresting officers” and appeared to also be drunk.
“No one, not even Solo’s lawyer, argues that Solo does herself any favors,” wrote Allison Glock in a recent ESPNw profile that tried to burnish Solo’s image by portraying the soccer star as an intense but misunderstood overachiever. (That’s how every jerk sees herself!) The profile also reported that, while jailed for three days in the aftermath of the June 2014 attack, Solo found comfort in the writings of her favorite author: noted jerk Ayn Rand. Case closed!
Why she might not be a jerk: Solo’s mother was an alcoholic and her father was a small-time con man, and while a difficult childhood doesn’t excuse adult bad behavior, it can sometimes help explain it. It’s also worth noting that while Solo’s anger at the 2007 World Cup benching might have been impolitic, it wasn’t incorrect—she probably would have done a better job than Scurry. As for her drunken Today show appearance, it’s my understanding that everybody on the Today show is drunk all the time. And Solo herself tells a different story about the alleged nephew attack, claiming that she was the victim; regardless of whom you believe, police reports indicate that Solo’s nephew did break a broom over her head, point some kind of gun (maybe a BB gun) at her, and allegedly tell her to “get her ‘c— face’ out her his house.” Maybe the lesson here is that they’re all jerks!
Jerk score: I’m giving Solo 3 out of 3 for style, because if you’re going to get arrested for allegedly terrorizing your relatives, you might as well do so while wearing a spectacularly expensive necklace. She gets 2 out of 3 for technique, because it would have been funnier if she had been drinking while being interviewed on the Today show, as opposed to just beforehand. 2.5 out of 3 for consistency, because a world-class jerk would have found a way to berate the reporter assigned to write an image-burnishing profile. And 1 out of 1 in the “Does she find existential consolation in the writings of Ayn Rand?” category. 8.5 points for Hope Solo.