Former U.S. international goalkeeper Hope Solo has accused ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexual assault, according to quotes published by Expresso and The Guardian .
In an interview with the Portuguese outlet published on Saturday, Solo claimed Blatter “grabbed my ass” at FIFA’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in January 2013, where Solo presented the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award on stage alongside Blatter.
Solo told The Guardian that she had to compose herself to make a speech before she handed the award to her U.S. teammate Abby Wambach.
“I was in shock and completely thrown off,” Solo said, according to the British publication. “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.”
According to The Guardian, Blatter has denied the incident taking place, saying: “This allegation is ridiculous.”
Over the past month, celebrities have been speaking out about sexual harassment by people in power. Expresso interviewed Solo about the topic and she admitted that “I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass.”
“Can I talk about that?” she continued. “It was at the Ballon d’Or one year, right before I went on stage … It’s been normalized.”Solo has taken to social media to praise those who have spoken out against sexual harassment using the hashtag #MeToo.
“For the past few days, I have been thinking about all the uncomfortable situations myself and/or my team-mates have experienced throughout the years with trainers, doctors, coaches, executives and even team-mates,” she wrote on Instagram. “From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and [general managers] 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!”
This isn’t the first time a negative light has been on Blatter regarding female players. In January 2004, Blatter suggested women should where “tighter shorts” because “female players are pretty.”
“They could, for example, have tighter shorts,” Blatter said. “Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
Blatter, 81, was elected FIFA’s president five times between 1998 and 2015, but he lost his position due to ethics breaches.
Solo joined the U.S. women’s national team in 2000 but has not played for the nation since the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The 36-year-old was suspended for six months by U.S. Soccer for calling Swedish players a “bunch of cowards” and has not returned to the team since.
Solo has won two Olympic gold medals and the 2015 World Cup.