Yup. I went there. This IS about Luis Suarez and his apparent inability to control his mouth and Hope Solo and her apparent inability to control..I don’t know – drinking maybe? Anger?
These two people have more in common than you might first think. Suarez is a repeat offender having bitten people at least 2 times prior to his World Cup snack. Solo has a history of involvement in a domestic violence situation, on the night before her wedding – although not as the alleged aggressor – prior to her arrest this past weekend. Suarez is a very good soccer player. Solo is a very good soccer player. Both play for club and country. Both have been disciplined by their respective teams, Suarez for club and Solo for country. Both have brought their share of glory and negativity to the sport.
There are also glaring differences. The most obvious is that Suarez is male and Solo is female. Suarez plays for a prestigious men’s side with all the advantages that provides. Solo plays for one of nine teams in a U.S. women’s league trying survive in a pro sports environment. Suarez is being investigated by FIFA and Solo is being charged by Municipal authorities. Suarez faces a fine and suspension, Solo faces a fine and jail time.
Before I go further let me say with no ambiguity that I do not condone violence, domestic or otherwise and I do not condone biting an opponent during a soccer game, but having said that, I do have issues with the way people, journalists and just Janes and Joes, are treating the two offenses and the two players involved.
Suarez’s is the most recent, so I’ll start there. The man bit another player, blatantly, unapologetically and then blamed it on the other guy. This is not the first time or the second, but the third. Twice for club and now once for country. If it was done off the pitch to a family member he could be charged with domestic violence. See where I’m going with this? He has been fined and suspended for both the 1st and 2nd offenses and is now being investigated for the 3rd. Chances are they will give him another fine and suspension, bigger and longer than the first two. He has been given 2 chances to change his behavior and likely will get a third. Is it because of his gender and his ability and his celebrity? Yes and yes and yes. If he was not a talented male sports star he probably would have seen jail time. Not a lot, but the law does not look kindly on repeat offenders. Journalists and Janes and Joes are all over the board on this. Some say ban him from the game. Some say give him a break, he’s under a lot of stress. Some think it’s funny, some don’t. At the end of the day, Suarez hasn’t changed his behavior. He’s a role model, you say? The little boys, and girls, look up to him? All the more reason to make this a teaching moment of what not to do and how to recover if you do happen to go down this path. Too often we want to keep “offenders” for our own selfish pleasure, but what does that teach? That you are allowed unlimited mistakes? That you don’t have to change? That if you are a talented male sports star you get a pass because we like to see you play? If we truly are concerned about the message we send the kids who look up to him, we have to be willing to be tough and consistent. We have to look past gender and talent and celebrity and deal with the offenses fairly, based on the facts. The facts with Suarez are that he has had 2 chances to change already and hasn’t. He is a repeat offender. Should he be banned from playing? Maybe. If he was on the streets and didn’t change his behavior after the first two offenses he might end up in jail. At the very least he would have a “no contact order”. No contact with the game might be a just sentence.
And now to Solo. Worst case scenario: She is guilty of both counts. She did it, hit her nephew and her sister, was drunk and reacted in anger to taunts thrown at her, was pissed and pissed off. I know everyone cannot related to this scenario, but I have gotten into a drunken disagreement with a family member and if the police had been called I might have ended up in Solo’s shoes. In this scenario she is dead wrong, no excuses. So she’s sentenced, 364 days in jail or $5000, per count, (first time offenders with no criminal record typically don’t get jail time, a fine, counseling and time served usually is the norm, however her nephew is a minor and that may change things). Once she pays her fine and does her court ordered counseling she has paid her debt to society and that should be the end of it, but that’s only in a perfect world. There are also all the personal consequences for her actions; alienated friends and family, lost endorsements, sanction from her job, negative reactions from fans and pundits. And our society’s inability to accept that people are human. They make mistakes and have poor judgement, they violate our codes of conduct and our sensibilities. They also can change and often do when presented with their shortcomings.
People are equating her statements made during the 2007 World Cup with her current charges..not the same people. One has nothing to do with the other and shows no pattern, no matter how hard you look. They also want to throw in her comments on Twitter to Brandi Chastain during the 2012 Olympics..also not the same. Being outspoken does not predict violent behavior. Is it possible she has a problem when she drinks? Absolutely. Is it possible she has a problem controlling her anger when she drinks? Absolutely. Is this a reason to throw her out of the sport? Absolutely not. If she had committed these offenses on the pitch she would likely face a fine and suspension. She most likely would not be thrown off a team, based on the treatment her male counterparts have received. Everyone deserves the chance to change and if they must be judged they deserve to be judged fairly, based on the facts. If she successfully fulfills the requirements of the court, accepts and complies with the sanctions of her employers and does not engage in violent behavior going forward, why shouldn’t she be allowed in the sport? She’s a role model, you say? Little girls, and boys, look up to her? All the more reason to make this a teaching moment of what not to do and how to recover if you do happen to go down this path. Too often we want to get rid of “offenders” to make ourselves feel better, but what does that teach? That you aren’t allowed any mistakes? That you can’t recover from them? That you have to be perfect? If Solo doesn’t comply and does re-offend, have at her. But until that time we owe it to those kids we say we are so concerned about not to send a message of failure, but hope.