Yesterday, Shaun White captured his third Olympic gold medal in South Korea with an incredible final run in the men’s halfpipe, knocking Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano from the top spot in the podium. But that historic win has certainly had some shine taken off it thanks to a recent ideological shift in our country.
The culture of sexual misconduct, has, thankfully, started to come to light in the last year with details of sordid behavior rising to the surface in every facet of American life from the film industry and politics, to business, and sport. The #Metoo movement – and women’s general willingness to open up on the subject – has revealed a misogynistic underbelly in our society and exposed it for what it is: despicable.
White celebrated the hard-fought third medal of his career by raising his hands in the air and acknowledging the crowd. And he cried. But the press wasn’t as accommodating to the 31-year-old this time around as it was when he won Gold in 2006 and 2010 as a bright-eyed rockstar snowboarder. In his post-win news conference in South Korea, reporters continually peppered him with questions about a sexual assualt lawsuit filed against him in 2016, a year or so before the #Metoo movement started. He called the accusations ‘gossip,’ after his win then apologized for using that term. Because the accusations were much more than mere, ‘gossip.’
In the suit, that was settled in May of 2017, Lena Zawaideh, a former drummer for White’s band, Bad Things, accused White of making sexually explicit remarks and sending texts that were sexually explicit in nature, among other claims that included failing to pay her money owed. White had filed a request for the drummer to undergo a mental health evaluation but withdrew that request as a settlement was reached. There are often two sides to the story. But the details in this one are fairly gnarly as the plaintiff kept all of the texts on record. It was not a good look for White.
And it left a pall over this win for the greatest competitive snowboarder ever. Because of the movement, media outlets asked questions that probably should have been asked a year or more ago. Thanks to the Olympic-exposure meter reaching its crescendo, White ended up talking more about the lawsuit than the win – and literally had to be ushered out of a press conference to escape the barrage.
It would be hard to imagine there was much sympathy for White within the snowboarding industry. That ‘rockstar’ lifestyle has put him on an island in the community, and the giant bullseye on his back placed there by fellow competitors because of his entitled antics are well documented.
In his 30s now, White should be celebrating the greatest accomplishment in the history of the sport. Instead, it seems, he’s being forced to come to terms with his past. “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.”
Those lessons have been hard earned. White is probably a changed man, for the better. But the whole thing made me a little sad. I guess that’s just the culture we’re living in.