Shaun White Says He's 'Changed,' Apologizes for Calling Sexual Harassment Allegations 'Gossip'
A 2016 lawsuit resurfaced in which Lena Zawaideh claimed Shaun White had "repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her"
After the American snowboarder nabbed his third gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang this week — following previous first place wins in 2006 and 2010 — a 2016 lawsuit resurfaced in which drummer Lena Zawaideh, who played with White in the rock band Bad Things, claimed he had “repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years.”
When asked if the allegations would harm his reputation at a press conference following his win Wednesday, White replied, “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff.”
During an interview on Today Wednesday, White retracted the statement.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip’ because it’s a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today. I’m just truly sorry,” he told anchors Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie. “I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
The 31-year-old athlete added, “I’ve grown as a person over the years. You’ve known me for a long time now. It’s crazy how life works and twists and turns and lessons learned. Every experience in my life, I feel like it’s taught me a lesson and I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. I’m proud of who I am today.”
White’s rep did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for additional comment.
Zawaideh claimed that, among other things, White sent her inappropriate text messages, including images of penises, according to the Washington Post. The entire complaint was made available online by Deadspin.
In his initial response to the suit, White reportedly said, “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit.”
Zawaideh and White eventually reached an undisclosed settlement in May 2017, said the Post.
On Wednesday, White also spoke about his gold medal-winning performance on the men’s halfpipe, where he needed a stellar score on his third and final run to clinch the top spot.
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“That wait from landing my run to getting my score felt like a lifetime,” he said. “And I’m just sitting there like, ‘Please be my moment. I gave it my all down that run.’ It was so incredible, great feeling. The score hit and I was just crippled with overwhelming joy and happiness.”
The athlete broke down in tears when his score of 97.75 was announced.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.