The United States made some truly recognizable accomplishments at this year’s Olympics that no doubt deserve to be commended. They led all countries in medal count with 121 in total — nearly double that of the second place Great Britain — marked by athletic achievements from Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky that won’t soon be forgotten.
Unfortunately for them, neither will the actions of Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo, who stained the American reputation in gigantic proportions.
Starting in chronological order, Ms. Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team, made headlines after their shootout loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals with some questionable comments. Voicing her displeasure with the loss after the game, she called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” while mentioning that “the better team did not win today.” She went on to talk about how Sweden didn’t want to participate in open play, and how “they didn’t want to play great soccer.”
Now, to start with, as an athletic competitor you have the right to be angry you lost, especially when you do so at the highest level of competition with the most amount of pressure on you as possible. People can empathize with that. What they can’t support as easily is a sore-loser attitude where you use a poorly timed ad hominem to try to morally justify why it is you lost. You lost because you simply didn’t play as well, strategize as efficiently and get the bounces that you needed to come out on top. Plain and simple.
With that said, what swimmer Ryan Lochte did made Solo’s actions seem actually defensible. After finishing his events in the Olympics, Lochte and his teammates took it upon themselves to go for a night out on the town where Lochte falsely reported that they were held up at gunpoint and robbed of their money. Instead, Brazilian police proved that the men, while intoxicated, vandalized the washroom at a gas station and were questioned by an armed guard before they left the location. Why Lochte fabricated this story to begin with, posting it on social media and talking to television broadcasts in the U.S, is anyone’s guess.
Returning from the Games to their home country, each of these two athletes is being punished for their actions. In Solo’s case, U.S Soccer announced on August 24th they would be suspending her from the team for six months with her national contract being terminated. For Lochte, the reprimand was slightly different as he watched four major sponsors — Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Syneron Candela — terminate their contracts with the swimmer, costing him approximately $1 million in annual sponsorship money that would likely have gone toward paying for his training for the Tokyo Games in 2020.
While both consequences may seem justifiable from the outside, it’s the penalties put on Solo that have effectively ended her career while Lochte, who committed an actual crime, suffers a monetary penalty while joining the next crew of Dancing With the Stars.
For Solo, she stands to lose $36,000 of her $72,000 contract while having her contract status with the National Women’s Soccer League Seattle Reign put into questionability. At 36 years old, this could very well be the last hope Solo has at playing for the national team and professional soccer in general. There may be no coming back from this.
For Lochte, it’s a slap on the wrist with public ridicule and a monetary fine without the likelihood of it having any affect whatsoever on his Olympic career or professional status. Unless he’s suspended for his actions, his legacy may be tarnished, but his career is still standing.
Is this sexist? Maybe, maybe not, depending on where you want to draw the line. Regardless, it’s an organization dumping a commodity it no longer has a use for in professional sports, which is something all too familiar in the commodified business-like atmosphere of North American professional sports. When the sport is no longer able to reap the benefits of a given athlete, social implications be damned, they’re thrown to the scrap yard and forced to find a new use. Call it the American way.