Hope Solo accuses former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexual assault

Hope Solo and Sepp Blatter during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala 2013 at Congress House on January 07, 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo has accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulting her at an awards ceremony in 2013.

Solo told Portuguese newspaper Expresso that she “had Sepp Blatter grab my ass” backstage at the Ballon d’Or awards gala before Solo presented the women’s player of the year award to teammate Abby Wambach.

Here is the clip from the Expresso interview:

“Do you think we are at a tipping point of change in society towards [sexual harassment]? Do you believe the Pandora box has been opened? Everyone knew this was going on for years, in fashion, in sports, in business, but no one was talking about it.” 
“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass.”

“Sorry?”
“You know Sepp Blatter?”

“Of course.”
“OK. I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass [turns towards her press assistant, Melinda Travis]. Can I talk about that? It was at the Ballon D’or one year [Solo presented the FIFA’s women’s player of the year award in January 2013 and shared the stage with the now disgraced former FIFA president], right before I went on stage… It’s been normalized.”

Blatter resigned as FIFA president in 2015 amid a massive, wide-ranging corruption scandal and constant controversy. He had been heavily criticized at various stages of his 17-year term for his treatment of women’s soccer. In 2004, he infamously suggested that female players should wear “more feminine clothes,” such as “tighter shorts.”

When asked why she didn’t speak out about Blatter’s actions at the time, Solo said, “I speak out directly [with people] when things like that happen. … In the case of Sepp Blatter, I went on the stage, I was nervous for the presentation … It was the Ballon D’Or I was presenting. After that I didn’t see him and that was kind of bad. I didn’t get to tell him directly ‘Don’t ever touch me!’ That’s the way I’ve always handled things. Directly.”

She also recounted the immediate aftermath to the Guardian: “I was in shock and completely thrown off. 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.”

Blatter, contacted by the Guardian, via a spokesman, about Solo’s comments, denied the allegation, calling it “ridiculous.”

Solo has been vocal about sexual harassment in sports before. Last month, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, she composed an Instagram post that read, “For the past few days, I have been thinking about all the uncomfortable situations myself and/or my teammates have experienced throughout the years with trainers, doctors, coaches, executives and even teammates. 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. I always felt I’d ‘handled it’ and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators. That needs to change. Silence will not change the world!”

Her recent comments were made in the wake of several allegations of sexual assault against high-profile public figures, including comedian Louis CK and Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. Moore has denied the allegations. Louis CK has admitted the stories are true.

Speaking to Expresso in Lisbon at the Web Summit, Solo also discussed the broader topics of gender equality and sexual harassment in soccer. “I’ve seen it throughout my entire career. And I wish more female athletes would speak out about their own experiences. It’s rampant, it’s not just in Hollywood, it’s probably all over the place. 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 don’t know why more players don’t speak out against it.”

Solo later continued: “I’m actually very disappointed with the women who haven’t spoken about it in the sports world. Yes, everybody has [the right to make] their individual decisions, and it is uncomfortable, but I wish more women, especially in football, would speak against it.

“I think it is important to acknowledge that this doesn’t just happen with the powerful white men. It can happen all across the board, it can happen between women, it can happen anywhere. 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.”

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.