Shaun White's troubling history of sexual harassment is resurfacing after the 31-year-old snowboarder took home a gold medal in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea on Wednesday.
According to The Washington Post, White was sued by his band mate, Lena Zawaideh, in 2016 alleging sexual harassment, wrongful termination, nonpayment of wages, and breach of contract. Zawaideh, who played the drums in White's band Bad Things for seven years, was the only female member of the group.
Here are some of Zawaideh's complaints from the lawsuit as translated by The Daily Beast:
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 such as, ‘Don’t forget to suck his balls!’ when commenting on her boyfriend. At one point, White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them.” The offending texts sent by White also included arguably racist, explicit images of black men. The complaint further alleged that an intoxicated White attempted to kiss Zawaideh at a Halloween party in October 2010; “Another time, White put his buttocks directly in Zawaideh’s face. Still another time, White grabbed Zawaideh’s buttocks shortly after leaving practice for the day.
White would constantly refer to Zawaideh as ‘bitch’ and show her sexually explicit images and videos. For example, at one point, White yelled out to Zawaideh, ‘Hey, have you seen this video?!’ White then proceeded to show Zawaideh the ‘Shake That Bear’ video on his computer. ‘Shake That Bear’ is a disturbing video of a couple killing a bear and then having sex on top of it. Another time, White called Zawaideh over and forced her to watch ‘Church of Fudge.’ ‘Church of Fudge’ is a video where the viewer is subjected to hardcore porn involving a priest, a nun and fecal matter. This behavior made Zawaideh feel extremely uncomfortable. However, Zawaideh would acquiesce because she did not want to cause problems in the band or be terminated. Zawaideh was only seventeen or eighteen years old at the time. White was twenty-two or twenty-three years old
Additionally, Zawaideh alleged that White got progressively more possessive of her, and started dictating what she could and could not wear, and how she should cut her hair. She also claims that on a few occasions, she feared White would become violent with her.
Zawaideh provided evidence of White's bad behavior in screenshots of text messages exchanged between the two of them:
Additional screenshots of texts, including one of White sending pictures of a see-through shirt wanted Zawaideh to wear, can be found here. White has admitted to sending these texts.
After Bad Things completed their 2014 tour, Zawaideh returned home and waited to be told when band practice would pick back up. She never heard from White, and was told by other bandmates that she was replaced. In her lawsuit, she claims to have never received her contractual payments for that year.
In February 2017, White requested that the court have Zawaideh undergo a mental health evaluation, but this was never completed. In May of 2017, the two reached a settlement outside of court, but the terms of it were never disclosed.
Now, in the midst of the #MeToo movement and White's historic win, people are wondering why White isn't being called out on his former misconduct allegations the way other influential men are.
Instead, White is being hailed as an American hero for securing the USA's 100th all-time Winter Olympic gold medal. When reporters asked White if he felt the sexual harassment allegations might tarnish his reputation, he replied:
"Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip. 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."