Every year there's seemingly at least one pro athlete who ultimately has to apologize for an insensitive Halloween costume, and this year that distinction goes to Shaun White. The Olympic snowboarder issued an apology late Monday after catching heat for a costume he wore to a party over the weekend.
The 32-year-old White elected to dress up as Simple Jack, a special needs character from the 2008 film "Tropic Thunder." In the context of the movie, the Simple Jack character serves as an over-the-top, intentionally offensive vehicle to mock Hollywood's tendency to use the stories of disabled people for the purpose of creating emotional films that often garner Oscar buzz.
White shared a photo of him in the costume on social media.
Shaun White is facing backlash for dressing up as Simple Jack, an intellectually disabled character from Tropic Thunder, for Halloween. https://t.co/zmFWa78RHy pic.twitter.com/pDuysba4vz— E! News (@enews) October 29, 2018
After the release of "Tropic Thunder" a decade ago, the Simple Jack storyline and scenes stirred up controversy. Some thought that it it helped to enable the stereotypes that it was intending to mock.
With that in mind, and without the very specific context attached to the character, it should come as no surprise that White's decision to dress as Simple Jack for Halloween was met immediately with a healthy amount of backlash. The Special Olympics were among the many to call him out.
"We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain," Soeren Palumbo, co-founder of Special Olympics' Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign, said in a statement. "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."
As criticism began to pile up, White deleted the photo from his Instagram and later issued an apology, acknowledging that he made an insensitive decision.
October 29, 2018
"I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night," White wrote. "It was a last minute decision. It was the wrong one. The Special Olympics were right to call me out on it. They do great work supporting so many tremendous athletes and I am sorry for being insensitive. Lesson learned."
All things considered, White really has nobody to blame but himself here. He should have known that the costume would be seen as controversial and in bad taste by many. Also, he had a full decade of more relevant, less insensitive material to pick from. There's always next Halloween.