Winter Olympics: Shaun White apologises for dragging American flag on the ground after winning gold

Shaun White with the flag before he dragged it along the ground
Shaun White with the flag before he dragged it along the ground

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.

Shaun White drags the flag and causes offence
Shaun White drags the flag and causes offence

He said: “I remember being handed the flag. I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and the board.

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“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.

. . . set off an avalanche of negative tweets, including the one above. A small (very small) sample:

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.”

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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.

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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.