CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief executive hopes to meet with U.S. Soccer this week to discuss why national goalkeeper Hope Solo continues to play although she has been charged with domestic violence.
Solo, an Olympic double gold medalist, faces a November trial but has remained in the national squad, a decision that has pulled her sport into the domestic abuse storm that has engulfed the National Football League where players have been suspended until their cases are heard.
The USOC and U.S. Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati are facing growing pressure to explain why.
“If Sunil is here I am sure we will be talking about it because it is important to them and I know it is important to us,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun told Reuters on Thursday after the opening session of the USOC General Assembly.
”We’re concerned about the issue of abuse generally, not just domestic violence, all kinds of abuse.
“Unfortunately abuse exists in all areas of society today including but not limited to sport.”
One of America’s most recognizable women athletes, Solo pled not guilty in June to domestic violence charges stemming from an altercation with her sister and a nephew in Seattle and was ordered released from jail on her own recognizance.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper was arrested after police responded to an emergency call at her house.
Police said during the incident she appeared to be upset and intoxicated, while her adult sister and her 17-year-old nephew had visible injuries. Solo was hosting a party at her home when the alleged incident took place, the Seattle Times reported.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, under intensifying scrutiny, released a statement explaining the decision to keep Solo on the national squad.
“From the beginning, we considered the information available and have taken a deliberate and thoughtful approach regarding Hope Solo’s status with the national team,” Gulati said in a statement.
”Based on that information, U.S. Soccer stands by our decision to allow her to participate with the team as the legal process unfolds.
“If new information becomes available, we will carefully consider it.”
The NFL has come under intense fire for its poor response to domestic abuse by its players but USOC and U.S. Soccer have so far not been swayed by public opinion or mounting concern of sponsors over the issue.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, more than half of Americans believe that brands should drop their sponsorship with the NFL over the way it responded to domestic violence.
Several companies that have marketing agreements worth tens of millions of dollars each with the league, including PepsiCo Inc, Budweiser and Procter & Gamble have publicly criticized the NFL’s slow reaction to its handling of the cases.
Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Pepsi are also a U.S. soccer team sponsor while Procter & Gamble is a top sponsor of the USOC.
“We all, that includes the USOC, the league and our sponsors have to keep our eye on that ball and make sure it is being given appropriate attention,” said Blackmun.
”What individual companies or organizations or entities do ultimately needs to be decided on each of them by their priorities and their mission.
“But for us it is incredibility important that we stay focused on it.”
Editing by Gene Cherry