Alright, this has been a long time coming for me. Over the past few years, I have been hearing more and more people hate on Mr. Red-Headed wonder himself, Shaun White. This hatred reached its peak when the public found out that Red Bull built Shaun White a private super pipe somewhere in Colorado that was only reachable via helicopter back in 2009. Hoards of snowboarders and snowboard bloggers cried, “SELLOUT!” I want to make one thing clear: I hate that word with a passion. I hear it in almost every aspect of celebrity-related news. From Hip Hop music to NBA players. Let’s stop this nonsense.
What determines a sellout anyway? An athlete that makes millions of dollars endorsing products that has nothing to do with the sport they are famous for participating in? Why is this a bad thing in the first place? Are you honestly trying to say that you would turn down over a million dollars to endorse some Target clothes? Maybe if you’re already a millionaire, but even then it’s a stretch. And don’t be fooled for a second. Many of the riders that you deem as “core” and “true to the sport” still make plenty of money even if you don’t see their names plastered on every product from gum to scooters. More power to them. They are comfortable enough with what they make to turn down these other offers (if they even get offers like these).
So what’s this fascination with hating on Shaun White? Do you know him personally? Maybe he was an arrogant jerk that one time you met him for a few minutes. Have you considered that he is the most recognized face in snowboarding and one of the most recognized athletes in general globally? Think about how many of YOU he has encountered. I’m not trying to justify his attitude (if he had one), but just saying I understand.
The most profound argument that I can offer you is that you do not know his personal life. Did you know that he was born with a heart defect? Did you know that he had to have two heart surgeries before the age of 5? For all intents and purposes, this dude should have died. Did you also know that his family lived out of a van at one point in their lives? His mom used to make them “tomato soup” out of ketchup. She also worked as a waitress full-time to support her son’s love of snowboarding and skating. This is just a small snippet of his life that we know. This snippet is enough for me to have the mentality of “Make your money. More power to you bro.” Furthermore, I remember reading/hearing somewhere that the first thing he did with his first big check was buy his parents a house or Lambo or something like that. A dude that respects his family… awesome in my book.
Bottom line is, it’s very easy for you to sit there and judge an athlete when you are not in the same situation. When you turn down millions of dollars to endorse a product based on principle, then we can talk about selling out. Whether or not Shaun White has an attitude is irrelevant. You want to talk about “core” snowboarding culture? Excuse me, but I thought it was all about attitude. Now you complain that a snowboarder has one? People also say real snowboarding is about fun… do you know if Shaun White isn’t having fun when he competes?
Remember one thing, the more people that become snowboarders, the more revenue the mountains and brands we love make, the more improvements and R&D we get. These weekend warriors give our mountains the revenue needed to install high speed quads. These weekend warriors provide the revenue for snowboard brands to spend more on R&D so we get awesome gear. Many of these weekend warriors come to our sport because of riders like Shaun White. At minimum, this is one reason why you should at least give him respect.
By the way, why aren’t any of you hating on Michael Jordan or Tony Hawk? Yea, you didn’t think of it that way did you? Look, I’m not saying you should bow down to Shaun White or anything, but the dude deserves better than the hate he gets. I love watching Travis Rice and Terje rip up the backcountry like the rest of you. I much rather see moves like Kazu’s Chicken Wing McTwist in the super pipe rather than “Weeeee, I’m spinning and spinning and spinning!” But bottom line is, if you call Shaun White a sellout, YOU’RE the real sellout. You're selling out to yourself if you think that you would turn down millions to endorse a Target line of clothes for participating in a sport that you love.