Shaun White ‘Truly Sorry' for Describing Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit as ‘Gossip'

"I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff," White told reporters after winning his gold medal in Pyeongchang. He later apologized on "Today"

Shaun White on Wednesday apologized for describing the sexual misconduct allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit as "gossip" just hours after winning his third gold medal in the men's halfpipe.

"I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip," White said on NBC's "Today" show. "It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today and I’m just truly sorry. And I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience, but yeah."

Asked again about the lawusit, White dodged "Today" host Savannah Guthrie's follow up question. 

"I’ve grown as a person over the years and it’s amazing. I mean you’ve known me for a long time now. It’s amazing how life works, and twists and turns and lessons learned, so you know 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 and yeah, I’m proud of who I am today," he said. 

In the aftermath of White's winning snowboarding performance, White had hurried away from reporters trying to ask him more about the sexual misconduct allegations.

White has been the world's dominant snowboarder for more than a decade, winning gold medals in 2006, 2010 and again this year, completing a comeback after finishing fourth in 2014. 

As White was competing, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit by a former drummer in White's rock band, Bad Things. Lena Zawaideh said White sexually harassed and refused to pay her wages after he fired her. The lawsuit was settled in May for an undisclosed amount. 

White was asked if the allegations might tarnish his reputation. 

"I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff," he said. "I don't think so." 

Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but US Snowboarding and Freeskiing Event Director Nick Alexakos shut them down. 

White immediately left the stage following the conference while reporters continued to question him. 

"I have to get to the medal ceremony," he said while being ushered away by Alexakos. 

Phone calls and an email to Zawaideh's attorney from the lawsuit were not immediately returned. 

In the lawsuit , Zawaideh said White repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and told her how to get her hair cut. 

The lawsuit included screengrabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking about the haircut and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit. 

The lawsuit also said White grabbed Zawaideh's buttocks shortly after leaving a band practice and that he once shoved a bottle of vodka into her mouth and forced her to drink from it. It also said that "White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them." The lawsuit also says White tried to kiss Zawaideh at a Halloween party. 

Bad Things signed with Warner Bros. Records in 2013. The rock group released a self-titled album in January of 2014 and toured briefly. 

Praise for White's performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse.

White said in his "Today" interview that he wants to take some time to relax and think what he wants to do after Pyeongchang. But he raised the possibility of competing at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

"They put skateboarding in and I'm thinking how incredible if I can go for the Summer Olympics and compete in skateboarding in Tokyo and make a big decision if I want to continue and go to the China games," White said. "I got big plans."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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