Shaun White criticized for insensitive Halloween costume

Some people celebrate Halloween with trick-or-treating and candy or with jack-o-lanterns and ghost stories.

Others, like Shaun White, choose offensive costumes.

Over the weekend, the Olympic gold medalist posted a now-deleted photo on Instagram of himself dressed up as Simple Jack from the movie “Tropic Thunder.”

The ‘R’-word

Jack is a character from the movie within the movie that makes fun of intellectually disabled people. In “Tropic Thunder,” he is frequently referred to as a “retard,” something the Special Olympics spoke out against when the film was initially released.

“When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside,” Special Olympics global messenger Dustin Plunkett said back in 2008. “I cannot believe a writer could write something like that. It’s the 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.”

Related: See other controversial celebrity costumes: 

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Controversial celebrity costumes

Max Carver and Holland Roden's idea was creative -- their idea was the "Rick Owens Spring 2016 collection," a runway show earlier in the year during which the models walked while holding each other upside down. However, for people who weren't familiar with the reference, it looked way more sexual than intended. (Especially since their "models" were sex dolls.)

The Prince Harry of today hopefully cringes when he thinks about what he wore to a 2005 costume party: The then-20-year-old royal dressed up as a Nazi, and when photos leaked, it was certainly not a good look for the family.

While the offensiveness of Hilary Duff and her then-boyfriend's coordinating costumes is up for debate (some would certainly object while others would find it to be typical Halloween fare), it's the timing that really did them in. The two donned these costumes in late 2016, just when protests regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline were really heating up.

In 2006, just one month after beloved zookeeper Steve Irwin died in a fatal stingray incident, Bill Maher dressed up in an Irwin costume for Halloween -- complete with fake blood and a faux stingray tail sticking out of his chest. This was a popular "shock" costume at the time, but hopefully we all know better now.
Julianne Hough faced a massive onslaught of criticism in 2013 when she stepped out in blackface to dress up as a character from "Orange is the New Black."
Scott Disick was widely reprimanded for this Middle Eastern costume. He captioned the photo, "Happy Halloween! We getting Arab money tonight."
Colton Haynes is known for his over-the-top Halloween costumes, but some of his early ones required him to make subsequent apologies. The most egregious was when he dressed up as Kanye West in 2011, complete with full-on blackface.
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Free speech defenders

Despite criticism, some did defend the movie after its release, and the character. They said the movie was not meant to mock disabled people, but it was a form of creativity.

“I think it’s open to interpretation and that’s the great thing,” actor Robert Downey Jr. said during 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.”

Related: See Shaun White at the 2018 Winter Olympics: 

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Shaun White at the 2018 Olympics
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Shaun White at the 2018 Olympics
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S. after his training session. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Halfpipe Training ? Phoenix Snow Park ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Halfpipe Training ? Phoenix Snow Park ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S. trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S. trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Halfpipe Training ? Phoenix Snow Park ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Gus Kenworthy and Shaun White of the United States enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image is a digital composite created by layering in Photoshop and was created as an Equirectangular Panorama. Import image into a panoramic player to create an interactive 360 degree view.) Snowboarder Shaun White of the United States takes part in a half pipe training session on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Bokwang Snow Park on February 10, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Shaun White of the United States look on during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Snowboarder Shaun White of the United States waves during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States men's snowboarder Shaun White attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States men's snowboarder Shaun White attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
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Criticizing White and response

Fans and disability groups immediately criticized White for his costume choice on Monday, leading the snowboarder to take down his post.

The Special Olympics later issued a statement to TMZ.

“We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain,” the statement said. “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.”

White issued an apology late Monday on Instagram.

He acknowledged that he had made a poor decision and was rightly criticized by his fans and by the Special Olympics. White also said that he would use it as a lesson and be more sensitive in the future.

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