Pyeongchang, South Korea • Shaun White’s Olympic accolades speak for themselves.
Four times an Olympian. Three times a gold medalist in halfpipe. His third run at the Phoenix Snow Park on Wednesday was, according to some, the best the sport has ever seen and a crowning moment in White’s storied career.
The thing White doesn’t want to talk about, however, could tarnish that legacy.
At a news conference here after his gold-medal run, White was asked about — and brushed off — a question about a sexual harassment lawsuit he settled two years ago.
“You know, honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not, you know, gossip,” White replied. “So 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.”
When the reporter tried to ask a follow-up question, a U.S. Ski and Snowboard representative tried to shut down the question.
“I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal and the amazing day we had today,” the spokesman said. “Thank you. So if you don’t have another question …”
The reporter replied, “I’d like it to be addressed it a little bit.”
“I feel like I addressed it,” White said.
White apologized for his word choice during an appearance on NBC’s Today show.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip,” he said. “It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today.”
White released an additional statement to The New York Times on Wednesday night: “Representing Team U.S.A. at the Olympics in a sport that I love is a true honor, and I was thrilled to win gold. I regret my behavior of many years ago and am sorry that I made anyone — particularly someone I considered a friend — uncomfortable. I have grown and changed as a person, as we all grow and change, and am proud of who I am today.”
The incident in question involves a lawsuit filed in 2016 by Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer of White’s rock band. Zawaideh sued White for breach of contract and later amended the complaint to include allegations of sexual harassment. She claimed he harassed her over the course of seven years.
“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,” according to the lawsuit.
White settled the lawsuit; the terms were undisclosed.
White has spent the past four years coming back from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the halfpipe at the Sochi Olympics. During that time, some of his peers publicly voiced feelings of dislike and resentment toward White, an icon of the sport in the public eye but a lone wolf in the snowboarding community.
In 2016, White claimed ESPN refused to invite him to the X Games because he had been critical of the network.
On Wednesday, he wept after his gold-medal run — a performance that unquestionably cements his status as one of the world’s best snowboarders.
Away from the snow, however, his legacy may not be as golden.