US Olympian Apologises After Calling Sexual Harassment Claims "Gossip"

Photo: Harry How/Getty Images.
Just a few hours after winning a third gold medal in the men's snowboarding halfpipe competition, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White found himself answering questions about much more than his sports record.
Well before the Games, journalists began questioning why the allegations of sexual harassment against White have been largely absent from Pyeongchang Olympic coverage. In early February, The Cut resurfaced a lawsuit filed against him by drummer and former bandmate Lena Zawaideh in August 2016.
Zawaideh, who sued White for sexual harassment and breach of contract, claimed that he "forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years," dictated what she should wear, and "sent sexually explicit and graphic images to [her] of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualising human faecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks to her."
The suit also says that at one point, White used his power "as the financier of Bad Things" [their band] to single Zawaideh out, and that he refused to pay her "because he believed she 'did not need the money.'"
White admitted to sending Zaweideh sexually explicit text messages but denied the harassment allegations saying, "Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit." But on Wednesday, in an interview on NBC's Today show, he apologised for dismissing the claims as "gossip" during a news conference following his win last night. (The moderator of the news conference also reprimanded the reporter who asked the question, saying "We're here to talk about the gold medal.")
"It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today and 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. Every experience in my life has taught me a lesson and 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."
Zawaideh's claims arguably did not make the same waves in the past as they did today, but in a statement to The Daily Beast, she said, "I am pursuing this case because women should not have to tolerate harassment at work. Shaun White should not be allowed to do whatever he wants just because he is famous. Although I am embarrassed to have been treated this way, I cannot sit by and watch him do this to other women."
The suit was settled in May 2017, though the terms remain undisclosed.

More from Work & Money


R29 Original Series

Watch Now
A look at the subcultures around the world that colour what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Explore the world's most vibrant cultural and culinary centres—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.