Olympic superstar’s sick texts
WARNING: Graphic content
OLYMPIC snowboarder Shaun White has apologised for labelling sexual harassment allegations against him "gossip".
The snowboarding legend said he used "a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject" after the lurid claims resurfaced yesterday as he won a third historic half-pipe gold.
White settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in May last year after a female former member of his band filed a 76-page complaint against him.
When White was questioned about the lawsuit by reporters after his win he said: "Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip," before being ushered off stage.
He then copped a beating on social media, where he was linked to the #meetoo hashtag.
The suit lodged by former Bad Things drummer Lena Zawaideh paints an ugly picture of the much-loved Olympian, describing him as a controlling, self-obsessed misogynist who made her life hell over seven years.
It was filed in late 2016 and settled for an undisclosed sum in May last year but resurfaced after an article in Slate questioned White's credentials as a national role model given the sordid allegations outlined in the complaint.
It came as White beat Australia's Scotty James in the men's half-pipe final at PyeongChang yesterday, making him the first American man to win gold at three separate Winter Olympics.
Ms Zawaideh, who formed Bad Things with White in 2008, claims he sent her a series of sexually explicit text messages featuring "engorged" and "erect" penises as well as pornographic videos.
"Lena Zawaideh, the only female member in Bad Things, learned the darker side of Shaun White when he repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years," the lawsuit says.
"White sent sexually explicit and graphic images to (Ms) Zawaideh of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualising human faecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks to her such as, 'Don't forget to s*ck 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."
According to the complaint, White showed Ms Zawaideh a notorious video clip called "Shake the Bear" which featured "a couple killing a bear and then having sex on top of it".
On another occasion, Ms Zawaideh claims, the snowboarder forced her to watch a video called "Church of Fudge," described as "hardcore porn involving a priest, a nun and fecal matter".
Ms Zawaideh was 17 or 18 years old at the time and went along with his behaviour because "she did not want to cause problems for the band or be terminated", according to the suit.
She claims White appointed himself boss of the group because he was rich, famous and had connections, paying them a monthly salary of $4762.
According to the complaint, their relationship further deteriorated in January 2013 when White allegedly demanded the band to follow him around the country to rehearse while he was training for the Olympics.
Ms Zawaideh also claims White forced her to work while she was sick and at one point even cut off her salary because he "believed she didn't need the money".
Another series of text messages allegedly shows White ordering Ms Zawaideh to change her appearance to suit his taste and becoming angry when she refused. "As the financier of Bad Things, White used his role to impose a strict regimen 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 lawsuit says.
The documents allege that in March 2014, White became "increasingly hostile" after failing to win a medal at the Olympics and took out his frustration on Ms Zawaideh, consistently calling her a "b*tch".
Ms Zawaideh alleged there were also times when she felt physically threatened by White.
"On a few occasions when the band was practising, White gestured that he was going to backhand Zawaideh," the complaint says.
"He yelled out uncalled for remarks such as, 'I'll f**king slap you.' Zawaideh was fearful that White would hit her."
On another occasion, Ms Zawaideh claims she witnessed White tell a taxi driver: "You suck d**k for a living!"
In August 2016, White acknowledged sending the texts but alleged Ms Zawaideh was using them to get money out of him, including more than $50,000 she claimed he owed her in back payments.
"Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit," he said in a statement issued through his lawyer.
"There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court."
In response, Ms Zawaideh said she was pursuing the 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. Although I am embarrassed to have been treated this way, I cannot sit by and watch him do this to other women."
According to TMZ, White submitted - and later withdrew - a request for Ms Zawaideh to undergo a mental health examination to back her claims of emotional and mental distress.
The pair settled for an undisclosed sum in May 2017.
White was asked by a reporter about sexual harassment allegations during a press conference following his gold medal winning performance.
"Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip," White responded.
The reporter quickly jumped in to follow up and question White's use of the term "gossip", but was cut off by a press officer.