Olympic snowboarder Shaun White is apologizing now after he kicked up controversy this weekend by posting a now-deleted pic of his Halloween costume to his Instagram.
A three-time gold medalist, White dressed as Simple Jack, based on Tropic Thunder’s movie-within-a-movie called Simple Jack (the title character of which is played by Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder character Tugg Speedman) and features a magnified offensive and insensitive portrayal of those with intellectual disabilities.
You can see him in costume below:
— E! News (@enews) October 29, 2018
As you can imagine the backlash was swift and vocal online and included comments from Soeren Palumbo, Special Olympics’ senior director of global youth engagement and co-founder of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, who said in a statement:
“We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain. 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.”
It wasn’t long before White issued an apology and removed the offending post from his Instagram:
— Shaun White (@shaunwhite) October 29, 2018
Shaun White apologizes to Special Olympics after wearing ‘insensitive’ Halloween costume https://t.co/klv4plqTwi
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) October 30, 2018
After posting a photo of his costume over the weekend, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White immediately faced backlash on social media. He has since deleted the photo and issued an apology.
— #NBC7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) October 30, 2018
The Special Olympics were pleased with White’s reversal:
— Special Olympics (@SpecialOlympics) October 30, 2018
But people online still had a lot to say about the controversy:
I feel like this apology should be addressed to a larger group than just those who called you out. Try actually considering who was affected by your choice and how. Thanks, management. https://t.co/Gn0kon1osI
— Haley (@doneone97) October 29, 2018
— Genevieve Shaw Brown (@GSBrownABC) October 30, 2018
This is ridiculous. I have a son that’s a Special Olympian and I don’t find this costume offensive at all. It’s a movie character for Halloween. Please stop speaking for us all.
— Lee Dixon (@NaplesCaneLee) October 30, 2018
Fair enough, maybe in the film. But this is a Halloween costume and without the film’s context – irl, at face value – it‘s offensive. Shaun was called out, rightly so – he apologized, rightly so – you came to the defense of his mistake after the fact, I’d say misguidedly so.
— Briggon Snow (@BriggonSnow) October 30, 2018
He would agree it’s a dumb costume! Simple Jack was insensitive on purpose and Stiller’s character was shunned for it. Just like Downey in blackface. Without context, it is offensive. Simple Jack was *supposed* to offend.
— Sean O’Leary (@stholeary) October 30, 2018
Originally intended as a criticism of Hollywood’s use of the stories of disabled people as a way to garner awards (Jack was intended to parody movies like Forrest Gump, Rain Man, and I am Sam,) the film and Stiller’s over-the-top portrayal of Jack missed the mark of satire and instead angered many back in 2008, causing advocates to protest the film.
Stiller spoke out about the movie and White’s controversial Halloween faux pas yesterday on Twitter saying:
“Actually, Tropic Thunder was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then. It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards. I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the Special Olympics.”
Actually Tropic Thunder was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then. It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards. I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the @SpecialOlympics. https://t.co/RqID5jIXP1
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) October 30, 2018