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Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Tom Jones' Two Cents
  • Tom Jones' Two Cents
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Should we be cheering Shaun White?

On Wednesday, American snowboarder Shaun White turned back the clock and turned in a performance for the ages, winning gold in the men's halfpipe. It was the finest moment on the mountain for the greatest snowboarder to ever live. It was the first signature moment of these Winter Olympics.
Caught up in the emotion of it all, I immediately tweeted: "Shaun White is da man!" Twenty-six people "liked" it.
Swept up by the red, white and blue, others also tweeted about the 31-year-old White's performance.
Then came more tweets, though they weren't about White's gold medal. They were about sexual misconduct allegations made against White in a 2016 lawsuit by Lena Zawaideh, who used to be the drummer, and only woman, in a rock band with White.
What has followed is messy, clumsy and confusing as we again try to reconcile appreciation for the incredible talents of our celebrities and sports stars while not forgetting some of the awful things they've been accused of. And should forgiveness ever be part of the equation?
Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has helped unveil years of gross mistreatment of mostly women by men in powerful positions. The day of reckoning has rightfully struck down men in Hollywood, politics, media and sports who have sexually assaulted and/or harassed women.
Which brings us back to White.
Until Wednesday, White had remained pretty much unscathed, though Zawaideh's allegations were not a secret. I admit that I had completely forgotten about them.
The allegations were disturbing. They included threats of violence. White admitted to sending sexually explicit and graphic images in text messages. Eventually, he and Zawaideh settled the lawsuit.

When asked about it at a news conference following his performance at the Olympics, White said, "Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip." Several female reporters were not called upon to ask questions.

The next day, he apologized for using the word "gossip" and went on to say that he regretted past behavior and that he has grown as a person.
Almost as disconcerting as White's behavior is the criticism directed at the reporters who wrote about the allegations. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan was viciously attacked on social media for the tone and timing of her column about them, as if there should be a statue of limitations.
Brennan simply wrote, "Why in the world aren't we talking about this? In the midst of the #MeToo movement, how has White somehow flown under the radar?"
There are several reasons. One, maybe we just forgot about the lawsuit. Or wanted to forget. We pay attention to White only every four years, and his story might have simply been washed away by the news cycle.
But we weren't reminded of it, either. NBC — which views the Olympics as a two-week, feel-good lovefest of America — ignored the story. Perhaps if NBC hadn't left usual host Bob Costas, the conscience of the network, at home, American audiences would have been reminded of it. Instead, NBC chose to build White up as one of the must-see athletes and left the uncomfortable story for someone else. After all, stories about graphic text messages don't help ratings.
Then again, we're to blame, too. We all get so caught up in rooting for anything with an American flag on it that we have selective memory when it comes to such stories. Clearly, the reaction Brennan received is proof that many don't want to be reminded.

Then again, most of us tend to overlook ugly behavior and accusations if we like something enough.
It's why we still listen to Michael Jackson's music. It's why we still watch Cosby Show reruns. It's why we love Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea despite his creepy past, a past so creepy that Affleck will not present at this year's Oscars.
So, what about White?
The incidents in question are two years old. He has apologized. Should he have to answer questions and be punished forever?
That's up to each of you.
For some, no amount of time or no number of apologies can erase the allegations and what he admitted to. That's the price he must pay for what he did.
Some have already forgiven White and moved on.
But this is a story. White's behavior absolutely should be up for discussion, even as he tries to celebrate his gold medal. What happened two years ago is part of his story, and it's as relevant now as it was then.
In the end, what you choose to think when you think about White is a personal issue.
For me? I deleted my tweet.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

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