Shaun White apologized Wednesday for letting an American flag drag on the ground in the aftermath of his dramatic victory in the snowboard halfpipe.
White authored what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most indelible sequences of the PyeongChang Olympics Wednesday, winning his third Olympic gold medal with a masterful final run and immediately launching into a highly emotional celebration.
However, that happy moment was marred for more than a few viewers, because of the way the 31-year-old handled the flag. At a news conference in PyeongChang Wednesday afternoon, the four-time Olympian said he wasn’t aware he’d let the flag touch the ground.
“I remember being handed the flag. I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and the board,” he said. “Honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn’t mean any disrespect. The flag that’s flying on my house right now is way up there. Sorry for that. But I’m definitely proud — very proud — to be a part of Team USA and being an American and to be representing for everyone back home.”
White’s post-race actions caused outrage among some observers and mixed emotions among others whose sense of patriotism was both stirred and offended by the scene.
Here is a sampling of some of the reaction:
Shaun White just broke flag code like six times.
— Luke Perrin (@TheLukePerrin) February 14, 2018
— MEEKER (@MeekKristy) February 14, 2018
— David Sheets (@Sargd66) February 14, 2018
@TeamUSA Congratulations 2 a well deserved Gold 4 @shaunwhite ! Be proud of urself as this is probably ur “Swan Song Olympics” Coming from Military backing, something that bothers the heck out of me is dragging our flag Ur caught up in excitement, but PICK IT UP !! pic.twitter.com/bB24eiEnLx
— Karen (@KMB73) February 14, 2018
Am pleased for Shaun White, but he should not be dragging our flag. Show some respect!
— William C Eacho (@AmbEacho) February 14, 2018
Congrats to Shaun White for bringing home the gold in men’s halfpipe!
I know he’s excited and it was accidental, but I sure wish our flag wasn’t dragging on the ground in the midst of his celebration. #Olympics
— Kimberly Corban (@Kimberly_Corban) February 14, 2018
— Johnny (Joey) Jones (@Johnny_Joey) February 14, 2018
THIS FREAK DRAGGED OUR FLAG ON THE GROUND AS FREAK-BOY WALKED AROUND LIKE A BABY BLANKET! Comeback? Way to go? Redemption? Wait until the Army studs grab this freak and KILL him. Way to go, Army! Thank you!
— Ray Shaw (@RayandDaisy143) February 14, 2018
At one point, White even stepped on the flag. It was obviously inadvertent, but his lack of attention to the symbol of the U.S. did not go unnoticed.
— Nathan (@America4Israel) February 14, 2018
I was gonna bite my lip and not say anything when Shaun White was dragging the flag on the ground, but then he stepped on it. Congratulations Shaun, but dang, dude.
— Goofus (Craig) (@GoofusMcP) February 14, 2018
— Cam Carte (@Coach_Cam14) February 14, 2018
Shaun White dragged and stepped on the American flag at the #Olympics
Looks like the media has found their new “hero.”
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 14, 2018
Under a section of the U.S. Code called “Respect for flag,” one entry states, “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” However, the section also advises against carrying the flag “flat or horizontally” and using it as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” provisions that are frequently violated, including during some patriotic ceremonies.
Some Internet users were less concerned about White’s flag etiquette than what they saw as a predictably outraged, and possibly hypocritical, response to it.
Absolutely love seeing triggered conservatives cry on twitter because Shaun White *accidentally* let the flag touch the ground after LITERALLY WINNING THE UNITED STATES A GOLD MEDAL
— justin (@eJuanZack) February 14, 2018
Came to Twitter for white people mad at Shaun White for dragging the flag – was not disappointed
— Ian Barber (@Ian11Barber) February 14, 2018
If your bitching about @shaunwhite dragging the flag then you should also be pissed off whenever it is held horizontally across a ball field or made into clothing. All flag code violations. Congrats Shaun!! #Olympics
— John Pierpont Morgan (@P1erpont) February 14, 2018
— ⒿⒶⓎⒷⓇⓄⓌⓃ (@TheMrJayBrown) February 14, 2018
As many noted, even if White was guilty of carelessness in his handling of the flag, he could perhaps be excused, given the overwhelming magnitude of the moment. A gold medal winner as the rock-star “Flying Tomato” in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games, he barely missed the podium in 2014 and came to PyeongChang with a deeper appreciation for the moment, especially given a training accident in October that required 62 stitches in his face.
Going into his final run Wednesday, White was assured of a medal, but he needed to top 19-year-old Japanese star Ayumu Hirano to earn the gold. After accomplishing the feat, White broke down in tears as he celebrated with his family.
REDEMPTION FOR SHAUN WHITE!
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 14, 2018
According to NBC, White’s father said that he had never seen his decorated son cry. Then, as those two went in for a tight hug, White could be heard on the telecast telling his father, “We f—ing did it!” That faux pas, however, did not seem to spark quite as much outrage.
Hahahahaha NBC just let another F-bomb fly on live tv from Shaun White
— Katie F (@kflowerssss) February 14, 2018
— GB (@rU_confused2) February 14, 2018
@shaunwhite dropping the F-bomb twice during Primetime TV made my day
— Ashton Ripley Smith (@ASHT0NSMITH) February 14, 2018
Rick Maese contributed to this story from PyeongChang.
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