Hope Solo, the U.S. soccer star who won a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals as goalkeeper for the U.S. National Women’s Team, accused disgraced former world soccer boss Sepp Blatter of committing a sexual assault against her at an awards ceremony in 2013, in an interview with a Portuguese newspaper published on Friday.
The Hope Solo accusation follows a series of sexual harassment and assault allegations against high-profile men in the entertainment and media industries over the past month — a series that started with an explosion of accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein last month. At least 60 different accusations of sexual harassment have been leveled at Weinstein — producer of such hit “independent” films as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare In Love — including 27 allegations of outright sexual assault.
Since the initial Weinstein sexual assault and harassment allegations, comedian Louis CK, Amazon TV executive Roy Price, film director James Toback, celebrity chef John Besh, actor Kevin Spacey, and former President George H.W. Bush, among others, have been hit with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct toward women or young men.
According to the 36-year-old Solo’s statements to the Tribuna Expresso newspaper, at the 2013 Ballon d’Or award ceremony — international soccer’s most prestigious awards presentation — she was waiting in the wings to present an award when Blatter “grabbed my a**.”
Read Solo’s full interview with the Portuguese paper by visiting this link. The image at the top of this page shows Solo and Blatter at the 2013 Ballon d’Or ceremony, moments after the assault alleged by Solo would have taken place.
In the interview, Solo said that behavior such as the assault by Blatter she alleges has been “normalized.” In October, Solo posted a comment to her Instagram page in which she said that sexual harassment in sports is “rampant.”
“From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the a** to coaches and GMs and even press officers speaking about players ‘t***’ and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world,” Solo wrote. “I always felt I’d ‘handled it’ and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators.”
Asked why she did not speak out about Blatter’s groping at the time, Solo said that she was “in shock,” and attempting to focus on presenting an award to her longtime USA teammate, Abby Wambach.
“I was in shock and completely thrown off,” she said. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my teammate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.” Solo added that following the award presentation, she never saw Blatter again and did not have the chance to confront him directly.
Through a spokesperson, Blatter called Solo’s allegation “ridiculous.” But the now-81-year-old Blatter had been previously criticized for derogatory public comments regarding women’s soccer players, once saying that he would prefer women in the sport to wear “tighter shorts” and “more feminine clothes.”
After 40 years with the FIFA organization, including 17 as president of world soccer’s governing body, Blatter was banned from the sport for eight years in 2015 over an ethics scandal.
[Featured Image by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images]