Will You Still Root for Shaun White?

By Leah Gauquier:

Shaun White, an American snowboarder representing USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, causes major controversy after his gold medal win.

White was the top qualifier for the men’s half pipe, posting an unbelievable score of 97.75. The world watched with awe as he brought home the gold, earning praise from announcers and spectators. White even started appearing in commercials that referred to him as “the best in the US”.

The celebrations were cut short, however; when news dropped of sexual harassment allegations against him. In August 2016, a former drummer in White’s band “Bad Things” filed a suit against him. In an interview with USA Today she stated that in addition to sexual harassment White “sent her sexually explicit and graphic images” and “forced her to wear revealing clothing, cut her hair, and wear red lipstick”.

After his win, White participated in a press conference with USA Today. Sports columnist Christine Brennan reported he refused to call on the two female reporters present and ignored questions about the allegations instead referring to them as “gossip”.

Finally addressing the allegations on Wednesday morning, White apologized for his use of the word “gossip” and told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that he “has grown as a person over the years”. He added “I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger and I’m proud of who I am today”.  The lawsuit was settled in May 2017.

Some viewers expressed their anger on social media, criticizing NBC for not asking White about the issue before or after his Olympic performance.

This is not the only controversy surrounding White. Immediately after his gold medal win, he reportedly let the American flag drag in the snow, and later stepped on it during his celebration. Some spectators were outraged, seeing this as blatant disrespect not only to the flag but to the US and those who fight and defend it. Some went as far as calling White a traitor.

White made several statements in response, claiming that he had no intentions to disrespect the flag in this way. He told reporters “I remember being handed the flag but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get the board. Honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn’t mean any disrespect.”

Women are encouraged to speak out against sexual harassment and assault thanks to many popular movements such as “me too”. What will this mean for White’s career? Many seem to believe he should not be given a free pass because of his Olympic win. The gold medalists behavior is being taken seriously by spectators and fans all around the world.




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