A key figurehead in the United States women’s soccer team’s fight for equal pay is coming to the University of New Mexico.
Hope Solo, whose 16-year goalkeeping career with the USWNT included a World Cup trophy and two Olympic gold medals, will lead a Q&A session at SUB Ballrooms A&B on Monday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m. Her talk centers around one question: "Are sports serving American girls and women well?"
The University touted Solo as an advocate who "boldly spearheaded a gender discrimination lawsuit against sports giant U.S. Soccer" and “led the push for the United States Soccer Federation to pay women salaries equal to their male counterparts."
Her history of sparring with the United States Soccer Federation includes a charge of wage discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an ongoing class-action lawsuit accusing U.S. soccer’s governing body of gender discrimination.
"Hope Solo is arguably the greatest goalkeeper ever," UNM Associate Professor Ryan Swanson said in a press release. "But even more interesting than that, Solo has fought aggressively for equality. She has led the movement for equal pay for women soccer players over the past decade, making plenty of enemies along the way. UNM's Honors College invited her because we think she is an important voice in the conversation about gender equality, both in sports and beyond."
According to the release, Solo will also discuss her experiences growing up in Title IX America, leadership and breaking the "rules" and talk about how she became "one of the best goalkeepers in the history of soccer."
Solo holds a number of goalkeeper records for the United States, including appearances, starts, wins, clean sheets, wins in a season, consecutive minutes played and longest undefeated streak.
The twilight of her career ended in a rolling cascade of controversy. In 2014, Solo was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree assault, which were later dismissed. Additionally, the United States Soccer Federation suspended Solo for six months and terminated her national team contract on Aug. 24, 2016 on a charge of misconduct.
The governing body argued at the time that comments made after a match against Sweden in the 2016 Olympics — in which Solo called the Swedish players "a bunch of cowards" in regard to their defensive tactics — were "unacceptable" and "(did) not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players." The resulting suspension effectively ended Solo’s national team career, as she never suited up for the Stars and Stripes again.
However, she later railed against the decision in the documentary "Keeping Score", asserting that the federation pushed her out in response to her advocacy for equal pay with the men’s national team.
"They’re going to use my comments as an excuse to get rid of me forever so that they don’t have to deal with such a strong voice and opposition to field conditions and playing conditions and pay," Solo said. "I think I’m just a thorn in their side and it’s time for them to cut their losses."
Former teammate and reigning FIFA women’s player of the year Megan Rapinoe agreed, speculating that the governing body’s suspension was "probably some legal strategy" in a separate interview. Rich Nichols, the general counsel for the USWNT's players’ association, later called Solo’s suspension "excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights."
The event will be free and open to the public. The UNM Honors College, Athletics, Student Affairs, Division For Equality & Inclusion and the Women’s Resource Center are sponsoring the Q&A session.
Andrew Gunn is the sports editor and a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @agunnwrites