Shaun White apologizes for calling sex harassment claims 'gossip'

By Alex Butler  |  Feb. 14, 2018 at 2:17 PM
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Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Team USA snowboarder Shaun White said he's sorry for using the word "gossip" to refer to sexual harassment claims a former bandmate made against him.

At a news conference just after winning the third Olympic gold medal of his career in the men's halfpipe final Wednesday morning in Pyeongchang, South Korea, White was asked about the claims, which were part of a lawsuit filed in 2016.

That year, Lena Zawaideh filed an amended complaint to a civil suit in San Diego, saying White sexually harassed her by sending her sexually explicit pictures and graphic images in text messages, according to court documents obtained by Deadspin. White later admitted to sending the messages, according to a statement he sent to the New York Daily News. Zawaideh -- who belonged to White's band, Bad Things -- also said the snowboarder grabbed her buttocks and forced her to drink alcohol. She also filed a complaint against White for wrongful termination.

White denied her allegations and the two sides reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount, USA Today reported in May 2017.

When asked at the news conference Wednesday if the lawsuit would tarnish his legacy, White dismissed it as "gossip."

"Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip," White told reporters. "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 and I think that stands on its own."

After a follow-up question, the news conference moderator stepped in and told reporters to move on to the next question. The next reporter picked said he was going to ask the same question.

"I feel like I addressed it," White said.

After winning his gold medal, social media users tagged White and NBC in several posts, asking why the network did not bring up the lawsuit. Many of the users used the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp.

White addressed the situation again Wednesday night, apologizing for his word choice.

"I'm truly sorry that I chose the word 'gossip,'" White said in an interview on Today. "It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today. You know I am just truly sorry. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience."

White said he is proud of who he is at age 31.

"I definitely feel like I'm a much more changed person than I was when I was younger," he said.

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