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Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Society | 27 comments

Athletic suspensions illustrate the uneven hand of “justice” [update 2]

UPDATE 2. On August 12, U.S. soccer team goalie Hope Solo commented on the team’s loss at the Rio Olympics with a less-than-sportsman-like jibe. In a Sports Illustrated recorded interview she said, dispassionately: “… we played a bunch of cowards…” before detailing a series of actions she thought were evasive.

On August 25, Solo was suspended for six months and also fired when U.S. Soccer “terminated” her contract.

Let’s compare Solo’s suspension with comparables from the men’s U.S. swim team, shall we?

In 2014, Michael Phelps got his second DUI arrest in Maryland. He was traveling 84 miles per hour in a 45-zone and his blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit. USA Swimming suspended him for six months; he was 29.

In 2009, USA Swimming suspended Phelps for three months after a photo surfaced showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe at the University of South Carolina. In 2009, SC had a mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders convicted of simple drug possession.

In 2004, at age 19, Phelps was arrested after running a stop sign in Wicomico County, Maryland, and charged with DUI. He pled guilty to driving while impaired and was given a suspended sentence; the legal drinking age in the United States is 21.

Four-time Olympian Ryan Lochte, 32, not only got publicly intoxicated and vandalized a gas station at the Rio Olympics. He fabricated a complex lie saying he and his teammates had been mugged by men impersonating Brazilian police. Lochte told NBC on August 14:

We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a police badge, no lights, no nothing — just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, “Get down,” and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.

The story unraveled as the week wore on, with video footage — and his teammates — directly contradicting Lochte.

Lochte now admits he “over-exaggerated” the story and that he was drunk at the time. But he only did one thing wrong: “My mistake was over-exaggerating what really happened.”

In other words, filing a false police report was not a mistake.

Vandalizing private property was not a mistake.

Claiming to be a victim of brown-skinned thugs was not a mistake.

Cutting-and-running, leaving his team mates to face the music while he was tweeting about trivia and dying his hair, was not a mistake.

On August 22, news organizations reported four commercial sponsors had dropped Lochte: Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Gentle Hair Removal.

There have been no repercussions from the International Olympics Committee, the U.S. Olympics Committee, or the US swim team. In fact, Rio Olympics spokesman Mario Andrada brushed away the controversy:

I do not expect any apologies from him or other athletes are needed. They were trying to have fun… Let’s give these kids a break. They made a mistake. It’s part of life. Life goes on.

But Lochte is 32 years old.

He is most definitely not “a kid.”

Why might U.S. Soccer want to terminate Solo’s contract?

In the spring, Hope and four other members of the U.S. women’s national filed a complaint on behalf of the entire team with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking wage equality with male players. Writing in the NY Times, Carli Lloyd explains:

The top five players on the men’s team make an average of $406,000 each year from these games. The top five women are guaranteed only $72,000 each year… The men get almost $69,000 for making a World Cup roster. As women, we get $15,000 for making the World Cup team.

U.S. Soccer projects that the women’s team will yield $5.2 million in profit next year, but the men’s team is forecast to lose almost $1 million. This wage disparity means fans of women’s soccer are subsidizing men’s team salaries.

In other words, Solo’s behavior — publicly demanding equal treatment — is pushy and abrasive.

* * *

Yes, high performing athletes in the U.S. live in a public fishbowl and embody a sense of entitlement. This essay makes no judgment about whether excess media attention is “right” or “wrong”.

And Solo is no poster child for sportsmanship.

She’s been known to rant on Twitter. Solo, 35, has been charged with domestic violence in Seattle. And in January 2015, U.S. Soccer suspended her for a month when her husband was arrested for DUI while driving a U.S. Soccer Federation van; she was a passenger.

But she hasn’t caused an international incident.

And she hasn’t been convicted of a crime or pled guilty to one.

She’s a mouthy broad, but Lochte is a “really good guy.”

Thank you, Alexandra Petri, for your Privilege Tree:

And the tree sheltered him under its thick leafy canopy of privilege and everyone who saw him shrugged and said, “Boys will be boys.” And there were no consequences, and the tree protected him, and no one even thought to telephone the police. (For, after all, he was just a boy.)

Because that’s what we are seeing play out here.

Privilege: white and male.

Imagine for a moment that Solo were male. Do you really think he would have been suspended for talking trash?

Imagine for a moment that Lochte were black. Do you really think the official organizations would be sitting on their hands right now?

The answer is not just no.

It’s hell no.

Update 1

It’s 7:30 am Pacific on Tuesday Aug 30, and there is still nothing. Actually, the media response is worse than nothing. GoogleNews screen capture:

ryan lochte

Google News screen capture, Tuesday 30 August, 7:30 am

Update 2

It’s 9:00 pm Pacific on Tuesday Aug 30, and we learn that Lochte has not one but two new endorsements. One is from last week, the other was announced today.

AND he has been named as “a contestant on the upcoming edition of ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars‘.”

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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • I can’t believe I’ve written something defending Hope Solo.
    I find her off-field behavior abhorrent. But she seems to be a victim of uneven “justice” when it comes to Olympic suspensions.

    • KP

      I believe Solo’s suspension is due to cumulative behavior issues that the USA Soccer have become fed up with over the years. One example below.

      As well, there is more in store for Lochte. Brasil has requested he come back (he won’t) but he could be tried anyway. I think USA swimming will hand out sanctions on him when things are sorted.

      I don’t think it is a gender or race issue. Just my two cents.

      KEG: I made the link clickable

      • KP

        As a reminder, I try to stay objective around these issues. I supported your post “Culturally tone-deaf newsrooms shine in the 2016 Olympics”. I have posted articles in the past about white NBA owner Donald Sterling; saying his 3 Billion dollar franchise should be taken from him (it was). I was in favor of Ray Rice’s suspension from the NFL after his domestic abuse. I was in favor of Adrian Peterson’s suspension from the NFL after using a switch as a form of corporal punishment on his son. I have zero tolerance for domestic violence.

      • The suspension was specifically about the cowards comment.

        Justification for contract termination might be “cumulative” … but look at college/pro football player behavior for comparables. Hells bells. Look at the kid glove treatment her husband has gotten over the years.

        • KP

          “I can’t believe I’ve written something defending Hope Solo. I find her off-field behavior abhorrent.”

          USA Soccer does too. Her comments were made off the field, to media, after the game and at the Olympics in which she represented the USA. It was not trash talking during a game in the NBA or NFL.

          Hope and her husband may be out of control. It looks that way from here. That is not against the law. Being part of an Olympic team is a privilege with a strict code. Look for Lochte to be suspended as well.

          It doesn’t mean they won’t be at the next Olympics.

          If you write about the ills of Cycling at the Tour de France, the NFL, the NBA, MLB and domestic violence as I have and we will find additional common ground.

        • KP

          College/pro football and her husband are not dealing with the USOC. She was.

          Maybe she will be again in six months.

      • KP

        “A police statement on Thursday said the officer in charge of the investigation had recommended to judges that Lochte be deposed in the United States and that a transcript be sent to the ethical commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).”

        He is far from out of the woods. His sanctions are coming.

  • dduck

    Yeah, Kathy.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t we comparing two different organizations here. US Soccer and US Swimming are managed by different groups that have their own set of rules and disciplinary action. I think we are comparing apples and oranges.

    That being said, the underpayment of US Women Soccer players is completely unacceptable….particularly in the US where women’s soccer is so much better than men’s. I dont get it. Women’s Beach Volleyball is another sport where women should get paid more than the men. They are just flat out more entertaining to watch….same with tennis imho. 3 volleys and done is just not fun to watch.

    • KP

      Yes, different organizations are being compared under the USOC umbrella.

      Kathy’s post is worthy of discussion and she may be right. Perhaps there is more to come to light, as in Lochte’s case.

      On the good side, we see the woman’s medal count is very high. I think that is a testament to the passage of Title IX over forty years ago. As a reminder, Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in sport and education. My two girls who are nearing thirty never thought twice about playing a variety of sports from a large number of options. Access pays off in sport and more importantly in education.

      More on the good side: Female prize purses are the same as the men’s in professional Tennis and Triathlon (both Olympic sports). That is due to public interest, not law. So the discussion of pay on Olympics teams seems valid to me. Not so in other pro leagues. The Olympic Training Centers are co-ed and have equal access.

      I would go so far as to say Olympic Women’s Gymnastics, Tennis, Indoor Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Soccer, Track and Field and Swimming are all more popular to follow and view during the Olympics than the men (for me).

      The strict drug testing appears to be applied evenly. Discipline should be applied evenly but due process is part of the equation in some cases and there is some subjectivity (as Kathy points out). We saw Hope Solo stay on the World Cup Team and the Olympic Team after her domestic abuse case, among other issues/problems off field. Some would ask how did she last so long?

      Lastly, Hope’s suspension and the voiding of her contract are one in the same, unless one feels she should have six months paid leave. So her disciplinary actions might be viewed as cumulative by some.

    • Yes, two different organizations.
      But both managing Olympic teams.
      What’s good for the goose, and all of that.

      And to most people — casual Olympics viewers — there is probably no distinction between the organizations. Not unlike here in greater Seattle where we have at least five public bus “lines” and the average citizen has no idea which government agency runs each — or why there might be different ones.

    • SDB

      —->Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t we comparing two different organizations here. US Soccer and US Swimming are managed by different groups that have their own set of rules and disciplinary action. I think we are comparing apples and oranges.<---- Spot on! Fully agreed. Every organization is well within their rights to self govern and to determine disciplinary thresholds. It all comes down to how they wish to protect their image and brand. If they believe keeping certain high profile athletes on their payroll boosts their brand value, they are within their rights to make that determination, just as they are free to determine the level of egregiousness of the infraction, and free to just let the legal system handle any broken laws. If there is value to their image by imposing disciplinary measures, they are free to do so, so long as it does not violate any contract agreements or is imposed without substantial merit or prejudice.

  • It’s 7:30 Pacific on Tuesday Aug 30. STILL NOTHING. Actually, it’s worse than nothing. I’m adding an image to the main story.

  • Two more sponsors and Dancing With The Stars contestant.

    • KP

      Patience. These things often take months to play out. Solo’s story has played out over years time.

      Hope Solo reminds me of Mike Tyson. I predict that something bad is going to happen to her or her husband. They are violent.

      • KP

        Even Dancing with the stars doesn’t want a domestic violence, cop hating dancer on their show (I think).

      • Makes you wonder if this is tough love by US soccer? They may be very worried about her and her current life direction. My sister read her book and was beyond unimpressed with her attitude towards many things.

        • KP

          Somebody should have stepped in when OJ was beating Nicole for years. Maybe we are learning singers (say, Chris Brown), athletes and politicians should be treated like the rest of us.

  • KP

    It will be interesting to see how Colin Kaepernick is received in San Diego Thursday night at 7pm (PST) when his NFL SF 49ers play the NFL SD Chargers. He may have picked the wrong (or right) place to sit down during the national anthem. A couple hours ago the NFL San Diego Chargers named the Thursday game it’s 28th annual “Military Night”.

    Plans for the game:

    240 active duty Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army unfolding and holding a monstrous flag that will cover the field. The national anthem will be sung by a sailor, along with 50,000 fans (standing).

    At Half time there will be patriotic fire works show.

    At the end of the third quarter there will be a singing of God Bless America.

    Remember, athletes under the umbrella of the USOC …athletes employed by private companies of the NFL, are employees; they protest or act stupidly for years or one night at their own risk. My view, as a huge Colin Kaepernick fan for over a decade, since he was a student athlete at University of Reno, protest on your own time or risk blow back.

    Maybe he and Hope will dance with the stars!

    Even Delay danced with the stars. I’ve never watched an episode. Can we get any lower bar.

    • KP

      Kaepernick: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,”

      Not on the job, buddy.

      Here is how the Los Angeles Rams handle it:

      Each employer has their own way of doing it.

    • dduck

      KP, I can hardly believe what you say will happen at the game.
      I realize patriotic displays are popular, but I would have a problem singing God Bless America, being an atheist. Also, the home of the brave is deeper down than excessive flag waving. CP was stupid and unprofessional to say the least., and fines and lost endorsements are in order. This will open up all kinds of blustering and macho breast beating. I feel sorry for his team, and I hope it doesn’t screw up their season too much.
      And please. Trump, shut up. 🙁 🙁

      • KP

        Agree, nobody has to sing the words. In fact, there will be 65,000 people there. That’s why I said 50,000 will stand and sing. That you leaves 15,000 (I was thinking of you!) who may not. CP certainly doesn’t need to sing. I don’t even know if he needs to stand for the anthem. So far the 49ers say it is optional and they don’t seem to mind his protest.

        However, as you intimate, his teammates may not see it the same and the quarterback is their on and off field leader. Consider out of all those players some who have police officers in their extended families, or who will get lumped in with the reactions the 49ers get on the road, or some may join him. I don’t know how it will play out and I don’t really care. I think it is foolish of an employee to do on the job. My two cents.

        In the larger scope, the 49ers may allow it, but the NFL may step in. Like the discussion above, disciplinary action can be taken by each team different or the league, meaning the NFL (or (USOC above) can make a call higher up.

        Suspensions are handed out by the NFL all the time. Tim Tebow got in trouble for wearing eye that said “John:16”. Terrell Owens was suspended for pull a Sharpie out of his sock and signing the football he had just scored a touchdown with and threw it into the stands. Jim McMahon of the Bears super Bowl team in the 80s was suspended for wearing a headband that said Roselle on it. There are dozens more examples old and new.

        • KP

          28 years in a row the same show in SD.

        • KP

          EDIT: Tim Tebow wore eye black, which is black under the eyes to ward off sun glare.

        • KP

          EDIT, not CP, it should read CK, for Colin Kaepernick.

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