Snowboard legend criticized for Gus Kenworthy comments

Terje Haakonsen Gus Kenworthy
Despite widespread support for skier Gus Kenworth and his decision to come out publicly as gay, snowboarding legend Terje Haakonsen (above) didn’t see the newsworthiness of his announcement. Photo: Terje Haakonsen

Iconic Norwegian snowboarder Terje Haakonsen is no stranger to drama. Considered by many to be among the greatest snowboarders ever to live, Haakonsen has never shied away from speaking his mind and famously boycotted the 1998 Winter Olympics to protest how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was handling its inclusion of snowboarding for the first time.

But even with his background, as reported by SNOWBOARDER, Haakonsen’s comments regarding freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy’s historic decision to come out about being gay struck many as being tone-deaf, and it set the winter-sports community ablaze:

Almost immediately after sending out the above tweet, which was in response to a Wall Street Journal article that explained why Kenworthy’s coming out was a big deal, Haakonsen was beset with criticism from the action-sports community.

RELATED: Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy comes out, skiing community shows support

Former pro snowboarder Todd Richards, whom Haakonsen tagged in the tweet (and who is not gay), responded almost immediately:

Haakonsen insisted that he was joking, but Richards still saw his comment as being in poor taste.

Canadian pro snowboarder Spencer O’Brien also voiced her displeasure with Haakonsen, telling him he needs to put more thought into what he publicizes.

For his part, 41-year-old Haakonsen spoke with SNOWBOARDER Editor Tom Monterosso recently to attempt to clear up what he was trying to say, and to state that he was by no means attempting to disparage Kenworthy.

“Well, what do you want me to say to that?” Haakonsen said when asked about his tweet, insisting he was trying to make a joke. “I tweeted a joke about a skier that came out of the closet and I wasn’t really impressed that someone being gay was actually news. I also forgot that the United States is one of the most homophobic countries in the world and action sports is a masculine industry.

“It’s brave that Gus came out but there are so many other human rights that are important…I tweeted, ‘What’s the big news? Isn’t every skier gay?’ but people didn’t get that joke.”

And yet, despite his insistence that it was all in jest, Haakonsen refused to back down from his initial tweet.

“Yeah, it’s a joke,” Haakonsen told Monterosso. “But I’m not taking that back.”

You can read more of Haakonsen’s response, as well as his thoughts on homophobia in sports, at SNOWBOARDER.

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