Shaun White sorry for ‘gossip’ comment on sexual misconduct lawsuit after winning Winter Olympics gold

The men’s half-pipe winner says he used a poor choice of words when asked about the lawsuit by former Bad Things bandmate Lena Zawaideh

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 12:33pm

Shaun White apologised after dismissing the sexual misconduct allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit as “gossip” soon after winning his third Olympic gold medal in the men’s half-pipe in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

White has been the world’s dominant snowboarder for more than a decade, winning gold medals in 2006, 2010 and again this year, completing a comeback after finishing fourth in 2014.

As White was competing on Wednesday, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit by a former drummer in White’s rock band, Bad Things. Lena Zawaideh said White sexually harassed her and refused to pay her wages after he fired her. The lawsuit was settled in May for an undisclosed amount.

Shaun White interview when he was 19

White was asked during a news conference if the allegations might tarnish his reputation.

“I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but US Snowboarding and Freeskiing event director Nick Alexakos shut them down.

White immediately left the stage following the news conference while reporters continued to question him.

“I have to get to the medal ceremony,” he said while being ushered away by Alexakos.

White later said on NBC’s Today show he used “a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject”.

“I’m just truly sorry,” he said. “I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”

White also said he’s “grown as a person over the years” and is “proud of who I am today”.

Zawaideh’s lawyer said in a statement on Thursday the comments the snowboarder made at the news conference “directly impugn” Zawaideh’s character. Lawrance Bohm from The Bohm Law Group said “Zawaideh believed that this matter was in the past” but “unfortunately, by his recent comments and conduct, Mr White has minimised the problem of sexual harassment in this country”.

Bohm said Zawaideh would not comment herself.

In the lawsuit, Zawaideh said White repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and told her how to get her hair cut.

The lawsuit included screengrabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking about the haircut and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit.

The lawsuit said White grabbed Zawaideh’s buttocks soon after leaving a band practice and that he once shoved a bottle of vodka into her mouth and forced her to drink from it. It also said that “White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them”. The lawsuit also said White tried to kiss Zawaideh at a Halloween party.

Bad Things signed with Warner Bros Records in 2013. The group released a self-titled album in January 2014 and toured briefly.

Praise for White’s performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse.