Following on the heels of the NFL anthem protests, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White has prompted an internet controversy for allegedly desecrating the American flag after winning his third career gold medal at Pyeongchang. In the course of his post-run celebration, White was handed an American flag which ended up being dragged on the ground, angering some viewers.
White was initially handed the flag when he completed his run and was still carrying his snowboard. The flag initially brushed the ground. White then waved the flag and draped it over his shoulders. The video shows the flag dragging the ground as White picked up his snowboard and walked away. One picture shows White apparently stepping on the flag. The US flag code states that the flag should not be allowed to touch the ground.
Internet users erupted immediately afterward. One Twitter user, Michael Murph, exclaimed, “If you boycotted the NFL because of players kneeling you hereby have to boycott the Olympics because of Shaun White dragging flag.”
In the first place, so few Americans seem to be watching the Olympics that a boycott would not be noticeable. In the second place, Murph and White’s other critics fail to consider the intent of his actions.
In contrast to the NFL players taking a knee, White clearly did not intend to show any disrespect to the American flag or the United
States. His actions, while careless, were not planned or premeditated and were not intended to make a political statement. White is clearly proud of the flag and held it in a celebratory fashion when it was handed to him.
White has already explained and apologized for his mistake, telling reporters that he was unaware that the flag had even touched the ground. “I remember being handed the flag but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get the board,” White 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. So 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.”
That should be the end of the matter. Although cringeworthy, the video supports the claim that White’s dragging of the flag was
unintentional and he has offered an apology and a sincere explanation of why it happened that does not involve partisan politics of any sort. Americans should take him at his word and move on to other topics. There are already enough snowflakes at the Winter Olympics.