While Olympic snowboarder Shaun White dominated the men’s halfpipe on Tuesday, his victory was not so sweet. Allegations of sexual harassment filed against him in 2016 resurfaced following his historic gold medal win.
During Tuesday’s news conference, a male reporter for USA Today asked White if he was “concerned” about whether the claims would “tarnish his legacy?” To which White responded, “Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip. But I don’t think so. I am who I am, and I’m proud of who I am, and my friends love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own.”
When the reporter pressed and asked if White really believed that the allegations were gossip, the moderator interrupted and remarked, “I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal and the amazing day we had today,” and asked to move on if the reporter wasn’t going to address White’s win.
USA Today Sports reporter Christine Brennan was also present and pointed out something very curious in her column: during the news conference, “only male reporters were called upon, despite at least two women having their hands up the entire time,” she wrote, adding, “White blithely swatted away the one question he received about the allegations.”
While the allegations aren’t news—and Brennan admitted that she had just heard about the claims because sites like Slate had revisited the incident—it really bears the question, why isn’t this being discussed?
“Why in the world aren’t we talking about this? In the midst of the #MeToo movement, how has White somehow flown under the radar?” Brennan asked in her column.
On Wednesday, White issued an apology on NBC’s Today Show, saying he used “a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject,” and that he’s “truly sorry.”
The lawsuit in question was filed by Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer in White’s rock band Bad Things. As Complex reported in 2016, Zawaideh alleged that White “made inappropriate and sexually harassing and suggestive comments” to her during their time working together. She also claimed that she had text messages that proved her case, which she published.
According to Brennan, Zawaideh’s charges are fairly troublesome. White sent her images of genitalia, made her watch sexually disturbing videos, and made crude comments about her relationship with her boyfriend. White eventually confessed to sending the text messages that were used as exhibits in the lawsuit.
Following the published text messages, in 2016, White released a statement through his lawyer. “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit,” he said. “There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court.”
White and Zawaideh eventually reached an undisclosed settlement in May 2017.