Shaun White is sorry for his insensitive costume. The Olympic snowboarder took to social media to apologize for dressing up as Simple Jack, a character with an intellectual disability from the movie Tropic Thunder.
White, who drew backlash from many areas but especially the Special Olympics after posting a photo of the costume on social media over the weekend, shared an apology on Monday night.
"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," he wrote in a statement shared to his Instagram and Twitter accounts. "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."
The Special Olympics' official Twitter account thanked White for his apology. "Thank you @shaunwhite for listening to our community. You always have an invitation to shred with our athletes at #XGames Aspen!" the account wrote.
Previously, Soren Palumbo, the co-founder of the organization's "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign, criticized the three-time gold medal winner, telling The Huffington Post that "disability is not a joke nor should it be a punchline."
"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 Monday. "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."
Simple Jack, who was played by Ben Stiller, ignited controversy when Tropic Thunder premiered in 2008. The character, which was intended to be a satiric portrayal of the way Hollywood uses disabled people to tell sob stories and attract awards buzz, was not well-received by everyone, especially because the movie frequently referred to Simple Jack as the "r word."
"When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside," the organization's global messenger Dustin Plunkett said in 2008, according to CBS News. "I cannot believe a writer could write something like that. It's not the way that we want to be portrayed. We have feelings. We don't like the word 'retard.' We are people. We're just like any other people out there. We want to be ourselves and not be discriminated against."
Robert Downey Jr. was among those who defended the movie's usage of free speech. "I think it's open to interpretation and that's the great thing," he said at the movie's premiere. "You know, if I want to protest something because it offends me that's my right as an American, and it's also any artist's right to say and do whatever they wanna do."