OPINION: Smooth one, Shaun White


Shaun White's Instagram Account

Screenshot of Shaun White's deleted Instagram post.

Veronica Wernicke, Opinion Editor

Shaun White can be described as a great professional snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist. But, a good judge of character? It depends on the situation. This past week White made an ill-judgment call when he decided to attend a Halloween party dressed as Simple Jack — a character played by Ben Stiller in the 2008 movie Tropic Thunder.

In the movie, Stiller’s character is an intellectually disabled person who constantly gets called the r-word. The movie also features several other intellectually disabled people who get made fun of. Both the movie and Stiller have received backlash from various people and disability groups since the movies release 10 years ago.  

The post was captioned “Simple Jack and the kid!!!” and featured a picture of him and his friend in their costumes. Immediately following White’s Instagram post he was hit with backlash from various accounts.

From people on Twitter and parents of children with special needs, White had been receiving his fair share of backlash towards his very inappropriate costume decision.   

Most notably, the Special Olympics have spoken out against White’s costume choice.

“We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain,” the rep said. “Disability is not a joke nor should it be a punchline. We hope that Shaun White and others learn that this just continues stigma, stereotypes and discrimination.”

The following day, White took down the Instagram post and issued an “apology.”

“I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night. It was a last minute decision. It was the wrong one. The Special Olympics were right to call me out on it. They do great work supporting so many tremendous athletes and I am sorry for being insensitive. Lesson learned.”

According to the Special Olympics official Twitter account, it sounds as if they accepted White’s “apology.”

“Thank you @shaunwhite for listening to our community. You always have an invitation to shred with our athletes at #XGames Aspen!”

Although, I don’t find myself accepting his so-called apology as easily.

First off, White should have addressed his apology to more than just the Special Olympics community. Instead, he should have addressed it to the entire intellectually disabled community because more than just those in the Special Olympics were affected by his poor choice.

Also, the Special Olympics weren’t the only ones to call him out. What about all the other people and parents of children with disabilities? Don’t they deserve his apology too?

Another problematic point with White’s apology is his defense. The so-called “last minute decision.” Just by looking at the picture and the detail in his costume it seemed like more than just a last minute decision. Obviously, some planning had to go into the makeup and clothing necessary to pull off that costume. So, I definitely see multiple opportunities where White or someone close to him could have noticed and said: “hey man maybe this isn’t really appropriate.”

White needs to take more accountability and step up for his mistake. Just saying “sorry” doesn’t seem like enough.

I’m thoroughly disappointed in White especially because I like him as much as the next person — I stayed up to watch him win gold in this year’s Winter Olympics — but I find myself cringing at his ill-judgment. White isn’t the first person to make an ill-choice Halloween costume decision. We see it every year when people chose to dress up as “Native American’s” and the like. Let’s just hope this a one type deal and that White and others really do learn from his mistakes.