Higher standard or double standard for Hope Solo and USWNT?

College Contributor Network

Hope Solo has fallen under scrutiny many times since joining the WPS league and women's national soccer team in 2000. She's had scuffles with teammates, coaches, officials, family members -- you name it, she's probably had a run in with it. Like it or not, Solo has seemingly been what the media talks about the most regarding this largely successful and positive women's team.

It begs a question. Why is Solo criticized more harshly for her actions than most male athletes?

The answer likely lies in the fact that it's far easier to find male athletes with poor reputations than females. The media reports on men who do good deeds off the playing field and women who show poor judgment. Ordinary events rarely make the front page of the paper.

However, it opens an interesting discussion.

The most difficult part of the debate for the national team is that they haven't been the focal point for many negative reasons throughout the years. The negative attention that Solo brings is a fairly recent occurrence that the team and US Soccer are having to learn to deal with.

The USWNT has been fortunate enough to have players such as Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry and Abby Wambach who play for the love of the game and speak to the media to promote their team and women's sports in the best possible way. This relatively new issue of negative attention is what makes us wonder how female athletes should act.

But, is negative attention an issue? Or the saying could be right; all press is good press as long as long as they spell the name right. The women's team surely has seen more time on ESPN and in The New York Times than they would have without Solo's misbehaviors.

Women's soccer may be reaching the point that they don't need to keep a clean name in order to get new fans and keep the ones they have. They've kept a clean name since gaining popularity after the 1999 Women's World Cup. Their fans primarily consisted of young girls and their parents. A demographic that wouldn't mind turning off the television if distasteful behavior were being promoted.

Could Solo's bad publicity and reputation actually be helping the team gain fans and viewership? If so, which seems to be the case, this team isn't relying on young girls and their parents as their sole fan base, which is great news for the world of women's soccer in the U.S. considering it means their fan base is growing. However, it could be detrimental to the team's reputation that many of their most loyal fans love.

This may have turned into a fine balancing act for the team. They want the best possible players for their squad, some of which may come with baggage. If history tells us anything, they'd also like to keep their pristine image and young athletes looking their way in admiration. The players with baggage bring negative attention and stressful situations to a team preparing for the World Cup. However, these are the same types players that are expanding their fan base and play a crucial role on the field every game.

Yes, Solo's bad publicity could be helping the game, but teams shouldn't have to face these difficult decisions between a great player with a questionable record and questionable player with a great record. Higher moral actions should be a characteristic of the profession, not a rarity that the media gets to pick out.

Female athletes are generally held to a higher standard off the field than male athletes. We've all seen this in the media. It isn't a secret. Solo might be teaching us that the question is no longer why male athletes aren't held more responsible for their actions, but why aren't athletes?

Lacey Davis is a senior at the University of Georgia. She is a passionate fan of the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @laceyanne_davis​
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