US Soccer Star Hope Solo Says Ex-FIFA President ‘Grabbed’ Her

By Reuters

U.S. soccer star Hope Solo accused ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter of grabbing her buttocks during an awards ceremony five years ago, an allegation that the former head of international football’s governing body denied.

Solo, 36, told a Portuguese newspaper that Blatter touched her inappropriately in January 2013 during the Ballon D’or awards ceremony in Lisbon. A spokeswoman for Solo on Saturday confirmed her comments.

“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass,” the former goalkeeper on the U.S. national women’s team said in an audio interview with Expresso, posted on Saturday.

“It was at the Ballon D’or one year, right before I went on stage,” said Solo, who received FIFA’s women’s player of the year award in 2013. “It’s been normalized.”

A spokesman for Blatter said in a phone interview on Saturday that Solo’s allegation was “absurd and ridiculous, and it is not true.”

Solo is the latest celebrity to go public with accusations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in sports and entertainment, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

Hope Solo #1 of United States looks on during the Women’s Group G first round match between the United States and New Zealand during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Mineirao Stadium on August 3, 2016, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

The high-profile allegations have inspired an online campaign, tagged #MeToo, that has encouraged men and women in all walks of life to reveal their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, often years after they occurred.

Solo last month posted a statement on her Instagram page that commended women in the entertainment industry for having the courage to reveal their experiences with sexual misconduct and suggested she had been a victim herself.

“From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and GMs and even press officers speaking about players ‘tits’ and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world,” Solo wrote online.

Hope Solo #1 of the United States smiles before posting her 100th career shut-out against South Africa in a friendly match at Soldier Field on July 9, 2016, in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“I always felt I’d ‘handled it’ and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators,” she added.

Solo, considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world, played on the U.S. women’s soccer team from 2000 to 2016, when it won two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup.

Blatter is in the midst of a six-year ban from all soccer-related duties imposed by Zurich-based FIFA’s ethics committee after a corruption scandal.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference at the football’s world body headquarter’s on July 20, 2015, in Zurich.  (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
 
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