Shaun White is at the center of a new backlash after dressing up for a Halloween party as the character Simple Jack from Ben Stiller’s 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder.” The snowboarder and three-time Olympic gold medalist posted a photo on social media over the weekend, which resulted in outcry from both fans and 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,” Palumbo said in a statement to HuffPo. “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.”
The character of Simple Jack appeared during the mock trailers the appeared at the beginning of the Hollywood send-up comedy “Tropic Thunder.” In the film-within-a-film, Stiller’s character Tugg Speedman played Simple Jack, who is developmentally disabled, and stirred controversy when the film first opened. The script used Simple Jack to mock Oscar-baiting dramas featuring characters with disabilities, but the character’s over-the-top nature was problematic to many moviegoers.
White reacted to the backlash in a statement October 29. The snowboarder not only apologized for his decision, but he said the Special Olympics had every right to call him out on his choice and that their criticism was justified.
“I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night,” White said. “It was a last minute decision. It was the wrong one. The Special Olympics were right to call me on it.”
White was one of the biggest American stars at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The athlete won gold in the Men’s Halfpipe event. Although White took down the post featuring his insensitive costume, the image was saved by others on social media.
— E! News (@enews) October 29, 2018