Snowboarder Shaun White won another gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, but his past has not been unblemished, and sexual harassment claims against him have resurfaced. They were lodged in a 2016 lawsuit by the former drummer in White’s band, Lena Zawaideh. Be aware that the images and language in the allegations are extremely graphic.
Slate Magazine was one of the news organizations to bring the allegations back up, questioning why NBC is not mentioning them in light of the positive coverage the network is giving to the bankable and charismatic White. “Why Isn’t NBC Talking About the Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Shaun White?” the Slate story’s headline read.
Asked about the allegations at the Olympics after winning a gold medal, White labeled them “gossip.”
In May 2017, White settled the lawsuit with Zawaideh for an undisclosed sum, according to USA Today. Zawaideh was a member of White’s band, Bad Things.
On Wednesday, White apologized for his choice of words and said he has changed.
“I’ve grown as a person over the years,” he said during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “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.”
“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,” White added. “I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Lawsuit Claimed White Hides a ‘Darker, Misogynistic’ Personality & Sent Zawaideh Videos ‘Sexualizing Fecal Matter’
You can read the allegations above in great detail, but be forewarned that they contain extremely graphic, pornographic images. The lawsuit alleged that White “hides a darker, misogynistic personality.” The lawsuit was originally a breach of contract case, but Zawaideh amended it in August 2016 to include the sexual harassment claims.
According to the lawsuit, Zawaideh alleged that White “repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years.” The lawsuit alleged that White sent “sexually explicit and graphic images to Zawaideh of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing fecal matter.”
He was accused of saying vulgar sexual remarks to her like “Don’t forget to suck his balls,” when commenting on her boyfriend. In another instance alleged in the lawsuit, White was accused of sticking his hands down his pants and then putting his hands into Zawaideh’s face, “trying to make her smell them.”
White allegedly showed Zawaideh a “Shake That Bear” video on his computer that “is a disturbing video of a couple killing a bear and then having sex on top of it.” The lawsuit also alleged that White forced Zawaideh to watch “Church of Fudge” which is “a video where the viewer is subjected to hardcore porn involving a priest, a nun and fecal matter.” She was 17 or 18 at the time of that alleged incident, and White was 22 or 23, according to the lawsuit.
According to Deadspin, a representative for White released a statement saying, “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.” Although White denied the allegations, “he did admit sending her the text messages she included as exhibits in the lawsuit,” Slate reports.
Zawaideh’s lawyer Lawrance Bohm released a statement: “Yesterday, Shaun White used the word ‘gossip’ to refer to the past sexual harassment lawsuit by his former drummer Lena Zawaideh, our client. There are powerful forces at play which prevent Ms. Zawaideh from speaking about the allegations and ultimate outcome of the sexual harassment case.”
He added, “Before Mr. White made his comment, Ms. Zawaideh believed that this matter was in the past, and she was happy to put the situation behind her so she can focus on her blossoming music career. Unfortunately, by his recent comments and conduct, Mr. White has minimized the problem of sexual harassment in this country. Mr. White’s comments, on the world stage, directly impugn the character of Ms. Zawaideh. No woman wants to be called a ‘gossip’ or a liar by the harasser. Minimizing sexual harassment maximizes the harm to Ms. Zawaideh. Hopefully, before our country declares someone ‘the best of the U.S.,’ there will be investigation and due diligence.”
2. Zawaideh Was the Only Female Member in White’s Band, ‘Bad Things’
According to the lawsuit, Zawaideh was the only female member in the band Bad Things. The discord began in January 2014, when White stopped paying band members to “cut costs,” according to the lawsuit. He then reinstated the payments to everyone except Zawaideh. White told the others that he believe she “did not need the money,” according to the lawsuit.
At the end of the 2014 tour, Zawaideh went home thinking she was still a member of the band, but later learned that the band was rehearsing and performing without her. She was then told that White had deicded to part ways with her, although she did not receive a reason.
The lawsuit says that Zawaideh is a talented musician, songwriter, and vocalist who began playing music at the age of nine. From 2011 to 2014, she was the drummer- vocalist for Bad Things, an American electronic rock band composed of former singer Davis LeDuke, bassist, and former Augustana member Jared Palomar, guitarist Anthony Sanudo, and guitarist Shaun White.
According to Adventure Sports Network, White, before entering into a settlement with Zawaideh, “had tried to compel Zawaideh to undergo a mental health examination after she claimed the text messages caused her mental and emotional distress.” However, White withdrew that request and the case was dismissed when it settled before trial.
Zawaideh has moved on to create music via the band Nightpulse. Her website says, “The vision of singer, songwriter, producer, and renowned drummer Lena Zawaideh, the music of NightPulse encompasses pop bliss and midnight emotionality.”
“The name reflects my sound,” she says on the website. “‘Night’ expresses the dark and moody qualities. ‘Pulse’ is the dance-y rhythmic element. They’re conflicting ideas, but they blend together beautifully.”
3. White Was Accused of Trying to Control Zawaideh’s Physical Appearance
The lawsuit said that White was the financier of Bad Things and “used his role to impose a strict regime over Zaweideh, going so far as to demand that she cut her hair, wear sexually revealing clothes and underwear, and refrain from wearing red lipstick – her own personal signature.”
The night before Bad Things’ last show in their 2014 tour, Shaun White is accused of texting Zawaideh and demanding that she cut her hair “in a new style at shoulder or above but keep your bangs.” Zawaideh refused to cut her hair “because her image was extremely important to her,” said the lawsuit, alleging that “White was furious that his demand was not followed and refused to talk to Zawaideh the entire next day. He even demeaned her in interviews later that night.”
She later signed an agreement for a monthly retainer of $3,759 with the band.
He allegedly wanted her to dress sexier texting “u cool with this outfit?” followed by “two pictures of female drummers wearing little to no clothing.” He would allegedly ask her to take off red lipstick.
Another time he allegedly texted her that he had seen photos from a Warner Brothers shoot and “you are in your fleece sweater… I’m just really disappointed. For the last time please don’t wear that around me or the band… If I see it ill (sic) be forced to ask u to go home. Thank u.”
4. White Was Accused of Going Into a Tirade Against a Cab Driver & Grabbing Lena’s Buttocks
In 2009, shortly after recording a song for his skateboarding videogame, White allegedly snuck “Zawaideh into the club because she was only 19 years old at the time.” He is alleged to have shoved a bottle of vodka into her mouth, forcing her to chug it. Later he allegedly insulted the cab driver, calling him a “c-ck sucker” and yelling “you suck d-ck for a living!”
White allegedly started texting pictures to Zawaideh in 2010 that showed “naked men with engorged and erect penises and videos of vulgar sexual acts.” She felt extremely uncomfortable but continued to acquiesce since she “did not want to cause issues in the band or be fired by White,” the lawsuit contends. The lawsuit contains copies of some of the alleged text messages.
She alleges that in 2010 at a Halloween party, White became intoxicated and tried to kiss her on her mouth, but she rebuffed his advances. He’s also alleged to have grabbed her buttocks.
Bad Things hasn’t posted on its Facebook page since June 2015 when it wrote, “Hey eveyone (sic) – Our good friends in The Black and The White recently had all of their gear stolen and are in need of help to get back on their feet. If you can help them out in any way, head over here to support these guys, since they’re a fantastic band and need everyone’s help to continue on as a band. Thank you!”
5. White Met Zawaideh as a Result of a Wildfire Evacuation
Zawaideh met White through family friends when wildfires in the Rancho Santa Fe area forced them to evacuate to Carlsbad, California, the lawsuit says. White’s family owned a home in the area. During the evacuation, a friend of Zawaideh’s brought White to her house to play music with her and her brother.
They “jammed” together multiple times. At the time, she was a junior in high school and did not plan to make a career out of music. Instead, says the lawsuit, she planned to become a doctor and wanted to attend Harvard Medical School. However, the lawsuit alleges that White repeatedly called Zawaideh trying to “lure her into practicing and playing with him and her friend.” He finally called her mother and eventually she resumed “jamming with him.”
In 2008, he said he wanted to formally create a band, and they created the band. White organized sessions for the band in Santa Monica. Zawaideh was initially given a contract giving her $1,050 in exchange for releasing her rights to the band’s recorded performances and related creative contributions, the lawsuit says.
Shaun White, known by the nickname “The Flying Tomato,” is a skateboarder as well as a snowboarder. His family once lived in a van so he could snowboard with his brother.