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Hope Solo seeks to even the score on the gender pay gap

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo tackled equal pay and perception of female athletes in the media during her “Fight Like a Girl: The Quest for Equality” lecture.

Solo, former goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team, spent the day in Oxford. She attended a seminar, press conference and dinner before presenting the lecture with Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daughtery at 7:30 p.m in Hall Auditorium.

Solo served as goalkeeper for the U.S. National Women’s soccer team from 2008 to 2012 and received the Golden Glove award after the U.S. team won the FIFA women’s World Cup against Japan (5-2) in 2015

In 2016, Solo, an equal pay activist for the U.S. women’s soccer team, and five of her teammates filed a complaint against U.S. Soccer’s wage discrimination with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In August 2018, Solo filed another lawsuit, citing the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts.

After the U.S. team lost a game against Sweden in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Solo called the women’s Swedish team “a bunch of cowards” during a press conference. This prompted the U.S. Soccer Federation to hand Solo a six-month suspension for her comments.

The federation’s CEO fired her shortly after releasing the suspension and asked her not to speak publicly about it.

Solo believes the U.S. Soccer Federation fired her for speaking out publicly about equal pay for the U.S. women’s team.

“Unencumbering me and firing me was one of the worst things they could have done for themselves,” Solo said.

Meanwhile, during the same summer Olympics, U.S. men’s swimmer Ryan Lochte, who filed a false incident report after robbing a gas station in Rio de Janeiro, was suspended until this year.

But Lochte is still training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Solo is not.

The former goalkeeper spoke at length about  pressure on female athletes in comparison to male athletes.

“When me and my teammates would do interviews, we’re expected to be very [politically correct],” Solo said during the press conference in the afternoon. “We’re not expected to have emotion.” 

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In 2015, Daugherty, who joined Solo at all of the events, wrote a column titled “Why is Hope Solo being spared?” 

In the column, Daugherty compared the U.S. Soccer Federation’s handling of Hope Solo’s later-dismissed domestic violence charges to the way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell benched Ray Rice for two games after news broke that Rice beat up his then-fiancée and now-wife in an elevator, which both occurred in 2014.

In 2014, a fight between Solo, her half-sister Teresa Obert and her 17-year-old nephew ended in Solo’s fourth-degree domestic violence assault charges. A judge dismissed charges after Obert and the nephew did not answer all questions from Solo’s lawyer, Todd Maybrown, in a private deposition interview and refused to attend a second set of interviews.

Daugherty could not recall the column when asked about it.

“All I can tell you is, I try to do the best I can do every time I do it, and I really do care about the people that I write about,” Daugherty said.

At the time of the press conference, Solo was unaware the column existed.

“It hasn’t always been comfortable, but I think having uncomfortable conversations can be some of the best conversations, so thank you,” Solo said to Daugherty later while onstage.

Solo framed her experiences within the variety of issues facing female athletes through her own lens. She talked about how she and her former teammates are expected to behave differently than their male counterparts.

“We’re not expected to get competitive or be poor sports,” Solo said. “And we’re supposed to be girls next door, the ponytail posse, the innocent ones, but we are professional athletes who get upset, who get angry, who get mad ... Who want to win — no different from our male counterparts.”