Before snowboarder Shaun White won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, he was in a band called Bad Things. (Sorry, too on the nose? You can’t make this stuff up.) In 2016, he was sued by the band’s drummer, Lena Zawaideh, for sexual harassment. Even though they reached a settlement in May of that year (the details of which are undisclosed), the case has come back up into conversation—and it’s increasingly clear that almost no one knows how to handle it.
At a press junket on Wednesday, White was asked by ABC News’ Matt Gutman whether he was concerned that Zawaideh’s allegations against him would tarnish his legacy. He answered: “You know, honestly, [I’m] here to talk to the Olympics, not, you know, gossip. But 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.” Gutman tried to follow up, asking White if he believes Zawaideh’s allegations are gossip, but the moderator interjected and asked that the mic be passed to other reporters.
Zawaideh’s lawyer, Lawrance Bohm, issued a statement following White’s remarks, saying that they “directly impugn the character of Ms. Zawaideh. No woman wants to be called a ‘gossip’ or a liar by the harasser.” Elsewhere in the statement, Bohm says, “There are powerful forces at play which prevent Ms. Zawaideh from speaking about the allegations and ultimate outcome of the sexual harassment case,” and that her client “believed that this matter was in the past” until White’s remark in PyeongChang.
Speaking to Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show on Wednesday, White apologized, saying “I’m just truly sorry. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
In Zawaideh’s case against White, she alleges that he “pressured her to join the band, then began harassing her—trying to control her appearance, showing her porn, and sending her sexually explicit text messages, including pictures of other men’s penises.” In 2016, our sister site Deadspin published screenshots of the NSFW text messages allegedly exchanged between Zawaideh and White. In one of them, White tells Zawaideh to get her hair cut before a concert, and when she says no, White says: “That’s disappointing.....are u sure this is the decision u want to make.....??” When she repeats that, yes, she has decided not to cut her hair, he says: “No your decision to not do what I’m asking......”
At the time that Deadspin published the text messages, White said the following through a representative: “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.”
We will update this story as new information becomes available.