Snowboarding star Shaun White has apologized for referring to a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against him in 2016 as “gossip” during a news conference following his historic gold medal in the men’s halfpipe in Pyeongchang.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip,'” White said on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. “It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today. I’m just truly sorry. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience, but yeah.
“It’s amazing … how life works, with twists and turns and lessons learned,” White said. “So every experience in my life, I feel like it’s taught me a lesson, and I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. And yeah, I’m just proud of who I am today.”
White won an unprecedented third halfpipe gold medal Wednesday. As he did, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit filed by a former drummer in White’s rock band, who said White sexually harassed her and refused to pay her wages after he fired her.
White was asked in the news conference whether the allegations might tarnish his reputation, and he said, “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” before adding, “I don’t think so.”
Lena Zawaideh filed the suit against White in August 2016. The former drummer in White’s rock band, Bad Things, claimed White repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and refused to pay her after she was fired. The lawsuit was settled the following spring.
The lawsuit included screengrabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking Zawaideh to cut her hair a certain way and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit.
At a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability around harassment and abuse, many are giving the accusations against White a closer look. After winning Wednesday’s men’s halfpipe final, White was criticized on social media and questioned about the allegations at the news conference.
Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but the conference moderator shot them down. White, who also struck Olympic gold in the halfpipe in 2006 and 2010, rushed offstage as reporters questioned him about the allegations following the conference.
“I have to get to the medal ceremony,” White said while being ushered away by U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing event director Nick Alexakos.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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