Shaun White is offering an apology for wearing a Halloween costume mocking people with intellectual disabilities.
Over the weekend, the 32-year-old pro athlete dressed up as Simple Jack, a character from the 2008 film Tropic Thunder played by Ben Stiller. Soon after, the three-time gold medalist was met with a wave of criticism over the decision, including a statement from Soeren Palumbo, co-founder of the Special Olympics.
“We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain,” he said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “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.”
Now, White is offering a mea culpa for the costume, writing in a statement to multiple outlets, “I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night. It was a last minute decision. It was the wrong one.”
“The Special Olympics are right to call me out on it,” he continued. “They do great work supporting many tremendous athletes and I am so sorry for being insensitive. Lesson learned.”
This is not the first time that Simple Jack has caused outrage. Before Tropic Thunder was released in 2008, a number of advocates for the disabled community protested the movie.
“We are asking people not to go to the movie and hope to bring a consciousness to people about using derogatory words about this population,” Peter Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Special Olympics, told Reuters at the time.
Tropic Thunder was intended as a satire of Hollywood, examining how actors and films cater to awards shows. Simple Jack, a movie within the movie, tells the story of a disabled farmhand who is ridiculed for being different. In the film, this was depicted as a bid for awards season acclaim. So was the character of Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), a white actor who wore blackface to play an African American soldier in Vietnam. This also prompted boycotts of the film.
Stiller spoke out on White's controversy on Twitter on Tuesday, while responding to a fan joking about boycotting Tropic Thunder.
"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," he tweeted. "I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the @SpecialOlympics."
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