CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual harassment.

American snowboarder Shaun White has apologised for labelling discussion of a 2016 sexual harassment suit filed against him as “gossip”, saying it was “a poor choice of words” to describe talk surrounding the resurfaced claims.

Appearing on NBC’s Today after his gold medal in the halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, White said “I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip.’

“It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today.”

The 31-year-old had been criticised for using a post-event press conference to gloss over discussion of the suit, which was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2017.

When asked if he believed the allegations against him would impact his sporting legacy, White responded “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff.”

“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.”

The press conference moderator, a representative of U.S. Ski and Snowboarding, was also criticised for steering conversation away from the sexual harassment suit. The event was also called out for allegedly only fielding questions from male journalists.

While White was attempting to secure his third gold medal in the event, attention returned to lawsuit brought forward by Lena Zawaideh, a drummer for their former band Bad Things.

In 2016, TMZ reported Zawaideh brought the suit against White for claims including sexual harassment.

It reportedly included claims he sent her images of “engorged and erect penises” and footage “sexualizing human fecal matter.” The filing also included Zawaideh’s claim White forced her to watch a video of a couple having sex on a bear’s corpse.

The filing also reportedly included the claim White stuck his hands down his pants and forced Zewaideh to smell them, along with allegations of unpaid wages and demands about her appearance onstage.

In a statement released at the time, Zewaideh said “I am pursuing this case because women should not have to tolerate harassment at work. Shaun White should not be allowed to do whatever he wants just because he is famous.”

She added “I cannot sit by and watch him do this to other women.”

If you would like to talk to a counsellor about sexual harassment, give the people over at 1800 RESPECT a call on 1800 737 732.

Source: The Cut
Image: Ian MacNicol / Getty Images