In midst of #MeToo movement, how has Shaun White flown under radar regarding alleged sexual harassment of former band member?
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Shaun White is an American cultural institution, winning the third Olympic gold medal of his pioneering career Wednesday at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
But while we glorify him as an all-American athlete, consider this:
In August 2016, Lena Zawaideh, the drummer in his band Bad Things, filed an amended complaint to a civil suit in San Diego alleging White had sexually harassed her, sending “sexually explicit and graphic images” to her, text messages White later admitted to sending.
In February 2017, White requested that the San Diego Superior Court require Zawaideh to undergo a mental health evaluation, but three months later, White and Zawaideh reached an undisclosed settlement.
As White takes his bows Wednesday morning, cementing his place in Olympic history, I have a question:
Why in the world aren’t we talking about this? In the midst of the #MeToo movement, how has White somehow flown under the radar?
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Zawaideh’s allegations are incredibly disturbing. White sent her images of erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks about her relationship with her boyfriend, according to the complaint, which Slate and Deadspin brought renewed attention to on Wednesday.
In one instance, Zawaideh says in the complaint, “White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them. As the financier of Bad Things, White used his role to impose a strict regime over Zawaideh, going so far as to demand that she cut her hair, wear sexually revealing clothes and underwear, and refrain from wearing red lipstick.”
The complaint alleges that White’s behavior worsened after he failed to win a medal in Sochi. He “became increasingly hostile and threatening, especially toward Zawaideh. For example, on a few occasions when the band was practicing, White gestured that he was going to backhand Zawaideh. He yelled out uncalled for remarks such as, ‘I’ll f-ing slap you.’ Zawaideh was fearful that White would hit her due to his irrational behavior at the time.”
While denying the allegations, White admitted to sending the text messages that she included as exhibits in the lawsuit.
“Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit,” White said. “There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court.”
Then he reached a settlement with her.
These allegations against White are awful. Why they have stayed in the background until now, we’ll never know.
But they’re getting our attention now, and it’s about time. If we’ve learned anything about the #MeToo movement, it’s that we should listen to every allegation and go to great lengths to find out what happened, even with an Olympic hero such as White.