United States Women’s National Team soccer goalie Hope Solo is a woman and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is a man. These distinctions have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that one of them will most likely never play professional sports again, while the other is yet to even be disciplined for their recent assault charges. It is not overly complicated and there is no underlying gender-based double standard. There is only the simple fact that Ray Rice was seen directly striking his wife until she lost consciousness, while Solo was charged and has pleaded not guilty to two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Rice landed in hot water in September after a controversial video involving himself and his fiancée was released. The video begins with pushing and shoving and ends with Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out an elevator door.
The public response was clear and swift in saying that Rice must be punished. He was, with an indefinite ban by the National Football League. But little did he know that his actions would extend far beyond the game of football, past the world of sports and into the extremely delicate topic of gender bias.
Enter two-time Olympic gold medalist and soccer icon Solo, an A-list athlete known across the globe for her talent. In the days following Rice’s suspension, the public made it clear that it would no longer stand by and allow their larger-than-life athletes to be above the law. It was here that Solo’s previously overlooked assault charges from her sister and nephew dating back to June finally caught the media’s eye.
It is hugely important to acknowledge that Solo deserves to be punished if she is proven guilty. If the upcoming trial does not play out in her favor, then Solo has absolutely no business posing as a role model for fans across the world.
Anyone that faces criminal allegations is innocent until proven guilty. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who challenges this key principle of the American legal system. This is the reason why Solo has kept her endorsements, has not been suspended by the National Women’s Soccer League and has not received the same level of media attention that Rice has received.
There is not a double standard or differentiation of treatment regarding Solo. In fact, had the NFL and not the NWSL handled her situation, the outcome would likely have been the same.
In 2010, Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson faced assault charges after getting into an altercation at a bar. Benson, like Solo, pled not guilty and was not only allowed to continue playing throughout the ordeal, but was eventually exonerated without ever having been suspended.
As much as it has been suggested that Solo’s treatment is in some way related to the fact that she is a woman, this is simply not the case. Solo is still playing soccer because, as of now, she has not done anything wrong. Some may not agree with it and some may even say it is unfair, but at the end of the day, it is hard to argue against human rights.