Was Hope Solo fired because of her actions or was it because she was advocating for women’s rights? Was Serena Williams penalized for her retaliation or because she is an outspoken female?
In August 2016, Hope Solo, world famous goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team, was fired as a result of “conduct counter to the organization’s principles.” After losing in a penalty-kick shootout and calling the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” when they defeated her team, her career was terminated.
Although this action and her previous offenses did not well represent Solo and consequently her team, many people believe that there was more incentive behind the termination of her contract with US soccer. Solo advocated strongly for women’s rights, especially in the sports world. Specifically, she used her Twitter platform to raise awareness that female athletes do not receive equal pay despite their success. Laura Isaacs (10) said, “I think that US soccer used her previous charges as an excuse to fire her because they didn’t like that she was advocating for women.” Regarding the issue of equal pay, the men’s national team is paid regardless of win or loss, but the women are only paid for their wins. Isaacs said, “The men didn’t even make it to the last World Cup, and women have been dominating the soccer world.” The women’s national team were the 2015 women’s World Cup champions, yet the men still receive significantly higher pay.
Issues of gender inequality in sports can affect the mentality of younger boys and girls who look up to older athletes. Emily Rogers (10) brought to attention the fact that many male athletes, specifically football players, have been penalized for wrong-doings, but they have never been kicked off their respective teams as Solo was. Rogers explained, “It sends a message to young boys that they can do whatever they want.” On the other hand, young girls may feel afraid to speak out if they think they are more prone to punishment than men. As Rogers described, “Younger girls look up to women in sports because they can relate.” When a young female athlete sees her idol being kicked off a team, she may lose confidence in her right to speak out.
There is a question of whether or not outspoken female athletes intimidate referees or other male sports regulators. Serena Williams, well-known and highly successful female tennis player, was recently involved in conflict with the umpire during a match at the US Open. It began when she was accused of receiving coaching during the match. This accusation began the tension between Serena and the umpire. During the course of the match, she broke her racquet, called the umpire a thief, and received penalties, one of which cost her a game. These actions do go beyond the boundaries of permitted conduct in tennis; however, did the male umpire give her a stricter penalty because she is a woman?
Instead of being praised as arguably the greatest female athlete ever, Serena Williams’ has recently been remembered for her actions during this single match. But people believe that there would be no scandal at all if she were a male athlete. Rogers said “Men throw their racquets and it wasn’t made out to be such a big deal until Serena did it.” Isaacs also shed light on the issue when she said, “I think women are held to a higher standard in that they are supposed to act a certain way on the field or court.”
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