An inevitable part of being sports fan is reckoning with players who behave badly. That reckoning was more difficult than usual last week as Hope Solo, the Olympic gold medal goalkeeper for the American women’s soccer team, married Jerramy Stevens, a former National Football League tight end with a history of violence.
And not just a history: Solo married Stevens just one day after he was booked on domestic violence charges against her stemming from a multi-person argument that apparently began with a dispute about where they’d make their marital home and escalated into stun-gun usage. This is hardly the only time Stevens has been in trouble. In addition to numerous drunk-driving charges, Stevens was arrested for sexual assault in 2000 during his tenure as a tight end at the University of Washington—which overlapped with Solo’s time there—but never charged. (The prosecutor who declined to charge Stevens had a reputation for bending over backwards for UW football players.) Stevens later settled a civil suit with the woman who alleged the assault, reportedly paying her $300,000.
Solo’s decision to marry Stevens seems particularly disturbing because she is herself not just an athlete, but one of the most famous female athletes in the country. It’s easy to make the leap to assume she’d be too strong to be battered, or somehow unwilling to excuse her new husband’s terrible record because she’s physically powerful and a tremendous competitor. It’s easy to think Solo is somehow different from, say, Ashley Harlan, the physician’s assistant who married Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, also accused of sexual assault. But being an Olympian and a female ambassador for your sport doesn’t actually make you less likely to put up with a record of violence against women. Just as being a celebrated athlete doesn’t make you a good man.