Former goalie for the women’s USA soccer team Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexual assault. At a 2013 awards show Blatter allegedly grabbed Solo’s backside before she went on stage, she said in an interview with the Portuguese paper Tribuna Expresso.
Solo shared her story after being asked about the onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations that have rocked Hollywood and whether it was a problem in soccer. “Of course it is.” she said, “I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass,” before turning to her publicist to ask, “Can I talk about that?”
Solo says Blatter grabbed her at the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, which took place in 2013, right before she presented the Female Player of The Year award to her then-teammate Abby Wambach. “It’s been normalized,” Solo said of sexual assault in the sports world, adding that she wished more female athletes would speak out, saying she’s “really disappointed with the women who have not spoken about it.”
“It’s rampant, it’s not just in Hollywood, it’s probably all over the place,” she told the paper. “I’ve seen it in sports. For years, in the past, female players date and end up marrying their college coaches, which obviously a coach should not be doing, especially with a young player. I’ve seen it not just with coaches, I’ve seen it with trainers, doctors, and our press officers…I’ve seen it amongst players in the locker room. I do not know why more players do not speak out against it.”
After the Weinstein allegation, there are athletes who have come forward. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the same gymnastics team doctor whom fellow gymnast McKayla Maroney named in allegations of abuse.
As for why Solo had not spoken out sooner about Blatter, who was banned from soccer for eight years in 2015 after being found guilty in a corruption scandal, she said she usually speaks directly to the person first. In the case of Blatter, she said, she didn’t have a chance to talk to him after the incident.
“I went on the stage,” Solo said of what happened after Blatter grabbed her. “I was nervous for the presentation…After that I did not see him and that was kind of bad. I did not get to tell him directly ‘Do not ever touch me!’ That’s the way I’ve always handled things. Directly.”
In a statement to the BBC, Blatter denied Hope’s claims. “This allegation is ridiculous,” Blatter’s spokesman said.
Solo, though, thinks more women in the sports world need to speak out because it is not just “the powerful white men” who are guilty of sexual misconduct. “It can happen all across the board, it can happen between women, it can happen anywhere,” Solo said. “We are focused on the powerful white men, because I think that’s probably more prevalent, but it can happen anywhere. I’ve seen that.”
Solo didn’t elaborate on what else she had seen, but in the interview said she had talked to teammates. “I’ve told my teammates: ‘Do not ever fucking touch me! Do not do it,'” she said. “It has been in the showers, it’s been in the locker room.”
The former Olympian does think that this is a tipping point when it comes to sexual harassment and assault. “I think it’s going to take time,” Solo said, “but I do think people will have to think twice before they make certain comments, obviously before they just…grab my ass.”
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