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Shaun White apologizes for letting American flag drag on the ground after winning gold

A dramatic, emotional triumph in the men's halfpipe did not come, for many viewers, without some alarming breaches of flag etiquette.

Olympic snowboarding champion Shaun White shares his recovery from a face injury in October of last year that left him with 62 stitches. (Rick Maese/The Washington Post)

Shaun White apologized Wednesday for letting an American flag drag on the ground in the aftermath of his dramatic victory in the snowboard halfpipe.

White authored what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most indelible sequences of the PyeongChang Olympics Wednesday, winning his third Olympic gold medal with a masterful final run and immediately launching into a highly emotional celebration.

However, that happy moment was marred for more than a few viewers because of the way the 31-year-old handled the flag. At a news conference in PyeongChang Wednesday afternoon, the four-time Olympian said he wasn’t aware he’d let the flag touch the ground.

“I remember being handed the flag. I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and the board,” he 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. 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.”

White’s post-race actions caused outrage among some observers and mixed emotions among others whose sense of patriotism was both stirred and offended by the scene.

Pure elation. #BestOfUS #WinterOlympics https://t.co/E1XuTKthTN pic.twitter.com/vFslGemJbX

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 14, 2018

Here is a sampling of some of the reaction:

Shaun White just broke flag code like six times.

— Luke Perrin (@TheLukePerrin) February 14, 2018

Congrats Shaun White!! But PLEASE stop dragging the American Flag on the ground!! @shaunwhite #USA #2018WinterOlympics

— MEEKER (@MeekKristy) February 14, 2018

@shaunwhite way to be classy. You win the gold medal and then proceed to drag the American flag across the ground. No respect. No excuses for this. pic.twitter.com/xzbQ71iVqR

— David Sheets (@Sargd66) February 14, 2018

@TeamUSA Congratulations 2 a well deserved Gold 4 @shaunwhite ! Be proud of urself as this is probably ur “Swan Song Olympics” Coming from Military backing, something that bothers the heck out of me is dragging our flag Ur caught up in excitement, but PICK IT UP !! pic.twitter.com/bB24eiEnLx

— Karen (@KMB73) February 14, 2018

Am pleased for Shaun White, but he should not be dragging our flag. Show some respect!

— William C Eacho (@AmbEacho) February 14, 2018

Congrats to Shaun White for bringing home the gold in men’s halfpipe!
I know he’s excited and it was accidental, but I sure wish our flag wasn’t dragging on the ground in the midst of his celebration. #Olympics

— Kimberly Corban (@Kimberly_Corban) February 14, 2018

Proud to see @shaunwhite grab the gold… wish they wouldn’t drag our flag across the ground… blame the Marine in me but minimal effort would show a lot of respect ‍♂️ #OlympicGames

— Johnny (Joey) Jones (@Johnny_Joey) February 14, 2018

At one point, White even stepped on the flag. It was obviously inadvertent, but his lack of attention to the symbol of the U.S. did not go unnoticed.

Congrats @shaunwhite – Now can you stop dragging our flag on the ground and stepping on it, please? Show some respect. pic.twitter.com/OjeeM7Melt

— Nathan (@America4Israel) February 14, 2018

I was gonna bite my lip and not say anything when Shaun White was dragging the flag on the ground, but then he stepped on it. Congratulations Shaun, but dang, dude.

— Goofus (Craig) (@GoofusMcP) February 14, 2018

Proud of @shaunwhite for winning Gold Medal… but you dragged the AMERICAN FLAG on the ground and stepped on it on national TV! #NotCool

— Cam Carte (@Coach_Cam14) February 14, 2018

But he needs a lesson in flag etiquette! Dragging US flag on the ground and walking on it!!?? C’mon man. Show some respect #USflag

— Brenda Hoff (@Broncofan_hoff) February 14, 2018

Shaun White dragged and stepped on the American flag at the #Olympics

Looks like the media has found their new "hero."

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 14, 2018

Under a section of the U.S. Code called “Respect for flag,” one entry states, “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” However, the section also advises against carrying the flag “flat or horizontally” and using it as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” provisions that are frequently violated, including during some patriotic ceremonies.

Some Internet users were less concerned about White’s flag etiquette than what they saw as a predictably outraged, and possibly hypocritical, response to it.

Absolutely love seeing triggered conservatives cry on twitter because Shaun White *accidentally* let the flag touch the ground after LITERALLY WINNING THE UNITED STATES A GOLD MEDAL

— justin (@eJuanZack) February 14, 2018

Came to Twitter for white people mad at Shaun White for dragging the flag – was not disappointed

— Ian Barber (@Ian11Barber) February 14, 2018

If your bitching about @shaunwhite dragging the flag then you should also be pissed off whenever it is held horizontally across a ball field or made into clothing. All flag code violations. Congrats Shaun!! #Olympics

— John Pierpont Morgan (@P1erpont) February 14, 2018

Trump supporters:
"#ShaunWhite done disrespected our U.S. of A. Flag"
~they tweet from their home that has a tattered flag displayed outside after dusk without a light on it pic.twitter.com/4ZmVNLsct2

— ⒿⒶⓎⒷⓇⓄⓌⓃ (@TheMrJayBrown) February 14, 2018

As many noted, even if White was guilty of carelessness in his handling of the flag, he could perhaps be excused, given the overwhelming magnitude of the moment. A gold medal winner as the rock-star “Flying Tomato” in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games, he barely missed the podium in 2014 and came to PyeongChang with a deeper appreciation for the moment, especially given a training accident in October that required 62 stitches in his face.

Going into his final run Wednesday, White was assured of a medal, but he needed to top 19-year-old Japanese star Ayumu Hirano to earn the gold. After accomplishing the feat, White broke down in tears as he celebrated with his family.


HE WINS GOLD on his final run in men's snowboard halfpipe! #BestOfUS #WinterOlympics https://t.co/E1XuTKbGvd pic.twitter.com/b4Yn2jVVGN

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 14, 2018

All of the feels. #WinterOlympics #BestOfUS pic.twitter.com/0UiuoPrjkE

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 14, 2018

Selfie of a lifetime! pic.twitter.com/ACsRl4ZYmf

— Lauren Gibbs (@lagibbs84) February 14, 2018

According to NBC, White’s father said that he had never seen his decorated son cry. Then, as those two went in for a tight hug, White could be heard on the telecast telling his father, “We f—ing did it!” That faux pas, however, did not seem to spark quite as much outrage.

Hahahahaha NBC just let another F-bomb fly on live tv from Shaun White

— Katie F (@kflowerssss) February 14, 2018

Yeah! Gold for @shaunwhite! Woohoo! Way to rep the 30 somethings. Also cracking up that @nbc let that F-bomb play on live tv #OlympicGames2018 #Olympics2018 #PeyongChang2018

— GB (@rU_confused2) February 14, 2018

@shaunwhite dropping the F-bomb twice during Primetime TV made my day

— Ashton Ripley Smith (@ASHT0NSMITH) February 14, 2018

Rick Maese contributed to this story from PyeongChang.

Read more from The Post:

Shaun White proves he’s greatest snowboarder ever, winning third career gold medal

In nasty halfpipe crash, 16-year-old Olympic snowboarder may have avoided major injury

Shani Davis should have carried the flag. His Twitter rant complicated his case.

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir aren’t mean, but ‘truth can be hard to hear’