Shaun White was forced to apologise on Wednesday for allowing an American flag drag on the ground after winning Winter Olympics snowboard halfpipe gold.
White claimed his third title with a masterful final run and immediately launched into a highly emotional celebration.
However, the way the 31-year-old handled the flag infuriated American TV viewers, and White had to account for his actions at a news conference in PyeongChang Wednesday soon afterwards when he revealed he wasn’t aware he’d let the flag touch the ground.
He said: “I remember being handed the flag. I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and the board.
“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.”
But Twitter went crazy and slammed White.
— Nathan (@America4Israel) February 14, 2018
. . . set off an avalanche of negative tweets, including the one above. A small (very small) sample:
Shaun White drags the flag on the ground and my husband and I are cringingggggg.
— Jenna Hatfield (@JennaHatfield) February 14, 2018
Can @shaunwhite be any more disrespectful to the flag he wins the gold and is given the flag he drags it on the snow like Linus @ Charlie Brown.The flag that myself and many other veterans fought to defend.He was privileged to represent the US @ the Olympics not act like a P.O.S.
— Eric Metz (@Cpr_guruEric) February 14, 2018
Shaun White won gold in half pipe, then drags the flag on the ground. Killed the moment.
— borisdblade (@bladez_edge) February 14, 2018
Watched Shaun White when gold for the United States and then drags the American flag on the ground not very patriotic
— Tony Wills (@TonyWills17) February 14, 2018
I love how Shaun White wins a gold medal in the Olympics and almost immediately drags the flag across the ground and steps all over it!!!!
— Bad Luck Brydon (@BrydonGill) February 14, 2018
So I’m in the middle of my celebration for Olympian Shaun White, then he does the unthinkable….
DRAGS AND WALKS ON THE AMERICAN FLAG!!!! UGH!!!!!
— D’Adran Bryant, MBA (@Dbryantgroup) February 14, 2018
— Ruth Canfield (@rcanfield4) February 14, 2018
The U.S. Flag Code is clear. From Section 176(b):
“The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” Section 176(k) says when a flag is “no longer a fitting emblem for display, (it) should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
The Code lists other prohibitions, too, such as those against holding the flag horizontally (looking at you, NFL) or using it as apparel (looking at you, clothiers). In other words, a lot of things people do with the flag should make other people angry a lot of the time.
A small (very small) minority of tweeters gave White a pass, citing his emotions over winning a gold medal. That group will not win this debate, based on the imbalance in the responses.
White’s victory was already tainted in many Americans’ minds after stories of alleged sexual harassment and misconduct by White resurfaced this week. (UPDATE:Per ESPN’s Julie Foudy, White declined to answer a question about the allegations during his post-competition press conference, calling them “gossip.”) The flag flap will further obscure his athletic achievement.