Olympic gold snowboarder Shaun White made headlines for taking home hardware in Pyeongchang. While making his victory lap however, disturbing allegations about his past came to light. We dug into the sexual misconduct case that came out during Olympic interviews, as well as the deets on his current squeeze. His response to the allegations say something important about the #MeToo movement, as well.
White met his girlfriend backstage
White, 31, and Sarah Barthel, 34, first met backstage at Saturday Night Live, according to People. The duo have been dating for about five years after first meeting backstage at Saturday Night Live. The snowboarder said he and Barthel “just bumped backstage and became friends, and then over time it kind of turned into something.” The pair now live together in the Los Angeles area.
Next: Barthel carries some star power of her own.
Barthel sings lead for Phantogram
Although her beau stands in the spotlight right now, Barthel is no slouch, either. She sings lead for the electro-rock duo Phantogram. The band has risen to national stardom recently, performing at major music festivals and filling concerts. The singer even performed the national anthem at a Seattle Seahawks football game last year. She has seen her share of adversity, however.
Next: A family tragedy marred her third album release.
Her sister died by suicide in 2016
In the middle of recording Phantogram’s third album, Barthel learned that her sister Becky had died of suicide. “She was a hero. She was a rockstar [and] so special to everybody,” the singer told Complex. Barthel called her sister “that person in everybody’s life who was a shining star.”
The singer honored her late sister in an Instagram post, sharing an old photo of herself and Becky playing as children. In an interview with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Barthel relayed that her sister suffered from depression and anxiety “her entire life.” She had used alcohol to cope and attempted suicide a few times, before her tragic demise.
Next: Barthel’s dog provides support.
Leroy enjoys Instagram fame and belly rubs
The singer’s dog Leroy features prominently in her life. His Instagram account, “Leroythegoodboy,” shows the pooch posing with stars like Miley Cyrus, Big Boi, and Chance the Rapper. “He’s like my therapy dog,” she told Billboard. “Being on tour is not easy — you forget about the normal world because you’re in this strangle bubble where things can just stress you out, depress you. but when Leroy is in the bubble, everyone’s happy. They can breathe.” She added that Leroy helps her “take a step back” and helps everyone stay in the game.
Next: Barthel stood by White throughout the following ordeal, too.
The Olympic medalist’s past came up in an interview
During an interview after White netted a gold medal, White dismissed accusations as “gossip.” According to CNN, a reporter asked whether his former bandmate Lena Zawaideh’s accusations could tarnish his legacy. White said, “You know honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics not gossip … but I don’t think so. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am and my friends, you know, love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own,” he added.
Next: Accusations against the snowboarder revealed a “darker side.”
White’s bandmate sued him for alleged sexual misconduct
In court documents obtained by TMZ Sports, Zawaideh alleged her bandmate subjected her to the “darker, misogynistic personality” during seven years in the band Bad Things. Among the allegations, Zawaideh said White sent her sexually explicit and graphic images of “engorged and erect penises” and forced her to watch sexually disturbing content. Those included “videos sexualizing human fecal matter” and a couple killing a bear and fornicating on it.
Next: White allegedly treated his employee poorly.
Zawaideh played drums in Bad Things
The only woman in the group, Zawaideh served as the former drummer of White’s rock band. He founded the group and performed as the band’s guitarist. White denied Zawaideh’s initial claims of sexual harassment, but admitted to sending her text messages. “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit,” he said. Later, the pair reached an undisclosed settlement.
Next: The drummer filed suit for an important reason.
She pursued the case to give women a voice
“I am pursuing this case because women should not have to tolerate harassment at work,” Zawaideh said in a statement. “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.”
Her lawyer told The New York Times he hopes his comments bring justice for Zawaideh. “Mr. White’s comments, on the world stage, directly impugn the character of Ms. Zawaideh,” he said. “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.”
Next: White did make a statement after the event.
The snowboarder did apologize for his words
Shortly after the news conference, White appeared on the Today show and apologized for his word choice. “It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today,” he said, adding that he became “overwhelmed” by his victory, in the moment.
“I’ve grown as a person over the years,” he went on. “Every experience in my life, I feel like it’s taught me a lesson. And I definitely feel like I am a much more changed person than I was when I was younger.”
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