Sexual misconduct allegations against Shaun White have become a big part of the discussion about his performance at the Olympics

Andreas Rentz/GettyShaun White

  • Shaun White won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday and was faced with questions about past allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • In 2016, White was sued for sexual harassment and wrongful termination by a former bandmate, who said White showed her sexually graphic images and videos and made demeaning comments.
  • The lawsuit was settled out of court, and White dismissed the allegations as “gossip” in an interview at the Olympics.
  • He later apologised for using the word “gossip.”

In the wake of Shaun White winning a gold medal in the men’s halfpipe on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics, discussion was renewed over 2016 sexual misconduct allegations against White.

In May 2016, Lena Zawaideh sued White for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, wage nonpayment, and other labour code violations, Deadspin reported.

Zawaideh played drums in White’s band Bad Things and accused White of sending her text messages with graphic sexual images, showing her porn, and making demeaning comments about her appearance. Zawaideh also claimed that White made inappropriate comments to her about performing sexual acts with her boyfriend.

In one instance, the complaint said, White showed Zawaideh a video of a couple killing a bear and then having sex on top of it. In another, according to the complaint, White showed Zawaideh a video sexualizing faecal matter.

Additionally, the complaint said that White would make demands about Zawaideh’s physical appearance, asking her to cut her hair in a certain style and wear sexually revealing clothing. According to the complaint, White also threatened violence, saying, “I’ll f—ing slap you.”

Zawaideh claimed that after she refused to cut her hair, White didn’t speak to her and she was later informed she was kicked out of the band and was not paid the monthly retainer fee of other band members.

According to Deadspin, a representative for White said at the time: “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit. There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court.”

The lawsuit was later settled out of court.

On Wednesday, after winning gold, White was asked about the allegations and whether he was worried it would tarnish his legacy. White called the allegations “gossip,” saying he wanted to focus on the Olympics.

“I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” White said. “I don’t think so. … I’m proud of who I am. My friends, you know, love me and vouch for me. I believe that stands for itself.”

A handler then pressed reporters to move on, as they refused to answer any follow-ups.

Later, on NBC, White apologised for using the word “gossip.”

“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip.’ 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 on TODAY. “I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”

NBC has been criticised for its coverage of White and the lack of mention about the allegations. On Wednesday, Slate’s Josh Levin wondered why it had not been mentioned, writing: “It’s possible White is a sexual harasser. It’s also possible he was wrongly accused. It’s almost a certainty NBC won’t invest the time and energy to find out.”

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