Brandi Chastain was just doing her job.
And so was Hope Solo.
A former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team and current color commentator, Chastain criticized Team USA’s defense early in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. What ensued was the U.S. goaltender controversially calling out the commentator on Twitter.
Following the outbursts of tweets, many rushed to Chastain’s side, questioning Solo with, “How could you say that about a legend?” and “You wouldn’t even be here without her!” and “She was just doing her job!”
Chastain did her job to the best of her ability. She told it like she saw it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But when your job is to be a critic and you say someone sucks at what they do, you can’t be baffled by the backlash.
According to ESPN, the goalie revealed the context of her tweets in her newly published book SOLO: A Memoir of Hope. She wrote of Chastain:
She was killing our defense, singling out Rachel Buehler in particular. Buehler was upset, and I didn't blame her. There wasn't much to criticize in the way we were playing, but somehow Brandi had decided Rachel was the weak link. Rachel was quiet on the bus. I felt bad for her; I know the feeling of being singled out, set apart from my team. A lot of us were frustrated by the sense that our accomplishment was being picked apart.
And here’s the Twitter rant that followed.
Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics.Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) July 28, 2012
How did her teammates react? So many tried to make it out like Solo’s tweets were a distraction; that they could even compromise the Americans' quest for a title.
Solo illustrated her club’s response to the tweets (via ESPN):
"Hell yeah, Hope," my teammates cried. Christie Pearce Rampone and Abby Wambach and others offered up high fives. "Somebody finally said it," they said. It was a bonding moment for our team.
Solo isn’t a team captain, but as you can probably tell, she’s a verbal leader. Her teammates were down—one teammate was crushed—and she picked her back up by publicly defending her.
Many interpreted Solo’s outburst as immaturity. You say immaturity, I say maturation.
In 2007 Solo was benched in the World Cup. Her replacement, Briana Scurry, allowed four goals in loss a to Brazil. The fiery Solo confidently said after the loss: "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore," referring to Scurry being past her prime.
Five years ago, Solo called out her own teammate. That was garbage. This year, though, she defended Buehler, and check out the result.
An Olympic gold medal.
When you’re a member of the media, in sports, anywhere, doing your job often involves getting under people’s skin. Again, Chastain told it like it was—the Americans' defense looked sketchy against France.
But if she has every right to call out Buehler for her poor play, Solo has every right to call out Chastain for dissing her teammate.
If I write a column calling LeBron James or Tony Romo choke artists—which I’ve done many a time—I can’t be offended if either of them curses my grave. Hello, I just questioned their mental strength. Are they supposed say, "He was just doing his job" and give me a high five?
The media doesn’t live in a separate world in which it has immunity and can say whatever it wants about athletes while the athletes have to shut up and take it. It’s a two-way street.
If you can’t take criticism, don’t dish it out.
Solo saw the criticism of her teammate and protected her in the only way she knew how. And considering that it worked like gold—literally—it’s safe to say that she pushed the right buttons.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.