While Americans were eager to hail Shaun White’s remarkable gold-medal winning run in the snowboard halfpipe — the third gold medal of his career — the accomplishment has been tainted by the uncomfortable details of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him in 2016.
Lena Zawaideh, the drummer in White’s band, Bad Things, had filed a civil suit against White in August 2016, alleging that White had sexually harassed her, texted her photos of erect penises, and forced her to watch hardcore porn of a couple having sex on top of bear that had been shot dead and another video involving a priest, a nun, and feces when she was 17 or 18 years old.
According to the complaint, White allegedly abused his position as the band’s financier to demand “that she cut her hair, wear sexually revealing clothes and underwear, and refrain from wearing red lipstick.” After failing to win a gold medal in Sochi four years ago, Zawaideh said White grew increasingly hostile toward her, and began swearing at her and threatening to slap her. White would admit to sending the text messages but deny the other allegations before reaching an undisclosed settlement with Zawaideh in May 2017.
During White’s gold medal press conference, Matt Gutman of ABC News asked White whether he worried that the allegations would tarnish his legacy.
“Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip,” he said. “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.”
Reporters who tried to follow up on the question were shut down by U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing event director Nick Alexakos. Amy Robach, also of ABC News, said she and other female reporters present at the press conference raised their hands in hopes of asking a question, but White only called on male reporters. According to CNN, U.S. Ski and Snowboarding, which ran the press briefing, denied there was a coordinated to avoid fielding questions from female journalists. But Julie Foudy, an ESPN reporter who was at the press conference also, reported the same experience, posting about the odd coincidence on Twitter.
Interesting. Amy Robach of GMA and Christine Brennan of USA Today both had hands raised entire Shaun White press conference. Not one woman was called on for a question. There were about 8 questions allowed. https://t.co/Sc2CSSukGg
— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) February 14, 2018
Later, during an appearance on NBC’s Today, show, White apologized for calling the allegations gossip, saying that it was a “poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today.”
For more on the story, watch ABC News’ report below..