Shaun White is the latest public figure to come under fire for the distasteful way they've treated their sexual harassment or misconduct allegations. The snowboarder dismissed the sexual harassment case made against him as mere "gossip" during a press conference at the Winter Olympics, where he won his third gold medal at the men's snowboard halfpipe.
“Over the past couple of days the sexual harassment allegations against you by Lena Zawaideh have resurfaced,” a reporter asked at the media event. “Are you concerned that they are going to tarnish your legacy?”
“Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip,” White responded. “But I don’t think so. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am. And my friends love me and vouch for me, so I think that stands on its own.” Once the video hit the internet, White was immediately called out for his response.
He soon apologized for his comments during an interview on the Today show Wednesday morning. "I'm truly sorry that I chose the word 'gossip,'" White said. "It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience." White later added that he's a changed person: "I've grown as a person over the years. I definitely feel like I'm a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. I'm proud of who I am today."
In 2016, Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer of White's rock band Bad Things, sued the snowboarder for sexual harassment. Along with refusing to pay her wages, according to the suit she claimed White:
“White sent sexually explicit and graphic images to Zawaideh of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks to her such as, ‘Don’t forget to suck his balls!’ when commenting on her boyfriend. At one point, White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them.”
Zawaideh and White settled the lawsuit in May for an undisclosed amount. Referring to the sexual harassment allegations as "gossip" doesn't potentially crack a spotlight into White's character, but it also strips the significance of the victim's harrowing experience. Big or small, celebrity or otherwise, her story matters. In the wake of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements where women are standing up against their predators and reclaiming their voice, these lawsuits deserve to be treated with respect.
Below, watch Young M.A, MILCK and everyday women speak out about solidarity, empowerment and being fearless: