Kevin Backstrom "kicked off the Swedish Snowboard Team for Sexism"

Is Kevin Backstrom sexist? Does he deserve his punishment? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll give a Whitelines mug to the best comment.

Kevin Backstrom kicked-for-his-attitude-to-women
The headline reads: “Kicked out for his attitude to women.”

UPDATE (04/03/2013): Since we published this article, a couple of Swedish readers have called our attention to a (pretty telling) detail of the controversy that we missed – a photo that Kevin Backstrom supposedly uploaded to his instagram feed briefly before taking it down, as well as an (also now-deleted) blog slagging off journalists.

The photo in question definitely sounds more incriminating than anything else he posted. According to commenter ‘Ems’ below, it was “a cartoon of a blonde girl saying “what is the difference between me and a mosquito? The mosquito will stop sucking if you hit it”.

Even if (as we’re guessing) it was intended as a ‘joke’ by Kevin, it’s in pretty hideously bad taste.

And while we believe that posting it was probably a misguided (rather than a deliberately misogynistic) move, this certainly goes some way to explaining the Swedish team’s decision to kick him out.

Whether that decision is fair or not is of course still open to debate.

Kevin Backstrom is in trouble again. Back in October last year, he was censured by the Swedish snowboard team and jumped on by the press in his home country for visiting a strip club. And now he finds himself at the centre of a renewed media shit storm, again because of his perceived attitude to women.

Three days ago the homepage of the Swedish tabloid Expressen splashed with the headline above, which translates as: “Kicked [off the team] For His Attitude to Women”.

Apparently his well-publicised fondness for posting pictures of semi-naked women on his instagram feed and his blog has so outraged sections of Swedish society that the national snowboard team took the decision to boot him out.

kevin-backstrom-profile-pic
Kevin Backstrom’s instagram profile pic. Is this sexist or sexy?

In an interview on Swedish Radio 2 and on his blog, Kevin tried to explain that far from hating women “I love them more than anything” and pointed out that all of the photos he posts (many of which are of his girlfriend, who’s a model) are posted with the women’s consent. He said:

These ass photos I post are photos I get sent to me from girls who want me to post em. Do you think it’s wrong that I post all these photos?

As he sees it, “an extreme group started to send the national team emails about that I was a woman hater and they got scared of that and kicked me out”.

But while his Facebook page and instagram feed have been showered with messages of support, the team is clearly not budging. His team-mate and best friend Tor Lundstrom even quit in solidarity with Kevin, but to no avail – for now it looks like neither will be going anywhere near Sochi next winter.

Which is – at least for these two uber-talented young shreds – a massive shame. Whether its a shame for Swedish snowboarding (and snowboarding as a whole) too is an interesting question.

kevin-backstrom-in-action-frode-sandbech
Kevin in action in Folgefonna. Also from his instagram feed – Photo: Frode Sandbech

Sweden is a country that’s rightfully proud of its record on women’s rights and gender equality. Their culture is noticeably different to ours in the UK. Expressen may be the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, but there’s no way you’d find Page 3 girls posing in there.

In fact, the official Swedish government website dedicates a whole section to explaining their admirable equality laws. It reads:

Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society [and the country] has one of the highest levels of gender equality in the world.

So we can see why some Swedes may feel uncomfortable with Kevin representing their country at the Olympics. Of course, some would argue that this is precisely why snowboarding shouldn’t be in the Olympics at all. Because expecting riders to act like squeaky-clean athletes rather than punky little kids changes the fundamental character of the sport.

But even leaving aside all that, doesn’t kicking him off the team seem like a bit of an over-reaction?

We at Whitelines wouldn’t post pictures of girls’ asses all over our instagram feed, it’s true. That’s not really our style, and we’d feel a bit uncomfortable doing it.

But is there anything really wrong with a young dude posting pictures of consenting adults when they aren’t pornography, they don’t contravene instagram’s own terms of service and they aren’t anything worse than what you’d see on the front cover of FHM or the Daily Sport in any newsagent?

FHM's-High-Street-Honeys
FHM dedicates an entire magazine supplement (and this section of its website) to “High Street Honeys” – girls who send in photos of themselves hoping to be published. Pretty much what Kevin’s doing. Is this exploitative?

Certainly, when DJ Diplo fills his instagram feed with pictures of girls asses that they send to him to post, no-one bats an eyelid.

But then he’s a superstar DJ, not an athlete. Do the rules different for snowboarders because around the Olympics they suddenly become representatives of their countries? If so, is that right?

Basically, is this the kind of behaviour professional snowboarders, as role-models, shouldn’t indulge in? Or are the Swedish team just massively over-reacting to an artificial controversy whipped up by the media? Has Kevin just been set-up by a bunch of unscrupulous hacks who smelt a scurrilous story?

What do you think? Is Kevin Backstrom sexist? Is his instagram feed exploitative? Does he deserve to be punished? Let us know your opinions in the comments section below and the best one will win a Whitelines mug.

  1. Andrew Martin

    This article is as dumb as KB.

    When you’re on an Olympic team, you are hired by the COUNTRY. You are to represent FEMALES and males of all ages. A DJ that is hired by clubs or a mag that exists to exploit women have nothing in common with an Olympic athlete. People can choose not to buy the mag or go to a show. You are imposing onto ppl & their kids when you are on a national team. They didn’t choose you. You must earn their respect and be a role model. It’s part of that job.

    I am so SICK of hearing the old he “loves women”. Liking women sexually or even socially has nothing to do with “love”. Love is respecting the perspective of the public, women included. Guess what THEY DON’T LOVE HIM. He brought it on himself. He was disrespectful to his BOSSES i.e. the public/women and he lost his job. End of story.

    P.S. using insecure, attention needy or mentally ill women to rep ALL women is ignorant. Clearly the girls/women who have anything to with his pics are less than 1% of the population of women. You need to look out for the other 99% if you want a job and the respect of women.

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  5. tristan

    So I think the best comments on here have to be the contributions from @Swede really. Send an email to tristan@whitelines.com to claim your mug Swede!

    Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for our video interview with Kevin, dropping soon.

  6. brusti

    I just recently tumbled over KB Insta…amazing!
    Somebody probably just got jealous cause he doesn’t get as much ass there in the Swedish Olympic committee..no wonder if you are so stuck up!
    100 points to Tor Lundstrom for backing KB…in fact all the swedish riders should unite and back out.
    Create tomorrow’s headlines

  7. Swede

    Ok I found a picture of the deleted blog post:

    http://gfx.aftonbladet-cdn.se/image/16311121/574/normal/b208ed36e6443/BLOGG.jpg

    Should pretty much settle the debate. Thanks for updating the article Tristan!

  8. Emeleef

    In this day and age, unfortunately, I think there comes a time (perhaps when you get selected for your national team) that you have to realise that what you post online could affect your job. You hear stories of employees getting fired because of comments they’ve left on Facebook or Twitter and I’m not saying this is right or wrong, just that this is the world we are living in.
    I have friends with two Facebook accounts. One with their real name that they use for industry “friends”, where they post things that they know won’t affect future job prospects and then a pseudonym account for other banter.
    It’s harsh Kevin got dropped like a hot spud and the strip club thing shouldn’t have got him kicked off any teams but what you post online is kind of another matter.
    But, Teams and sponsors etc. need to make it clear what they expect from their riders and what they can or cannot get away with online.
    In the past I have had to sign contracts for jobs that have specified things I am or am not allowed to post anywhere online.
    I know snowboarding is a lifestyle but if you reach the level where it’s also kinda your job, then you do have to be a little more careful.

  9. Dave S

    I’m with Becky, its just a bit tacky really (the photos, not the joke). But then maybe so is a snowboard mag running a caption competition, with a sub-par Spinal Tap image, bit like something you’d see in Nuts.

  10. Becks Gibson

    Posting unfunny pictures making light of violence against women is also a great way to stop them sucking your cock

  11. Guy

    Steve Hughes has a point too on his ‘what’s wrong with being offended?’ sketch http://www.boreme.com/posting.php?id=29555 haha but this story is quite ridiculous

  12. tristan

    Hi @Swede and @Ems, interesting! Thanks for the correction. I realised he had written a blog attacking journalists, but that was taken down before we wrote this – the only thing I could find was one where he told journos to “fuck off” which may not be super-professional, but also isn’t overly offensive. Similarly the cartoon of the girl with the mosquito speech bubble was also taken down, so we at Whitelines never saw it, otherwise we obviously would have mentioned it!

    I agree that the cartoon sounds a lot more offensive than merely posting pictures of semi-naked girls. But it was still his instagram feed more generally, and the visit to the strip club, that was cited as the main reason for kicking him out in the article I read.

    Either way, I think the question of whether he’s the victim of manufactured controversy still stands, although (given what you’ve told me) it was undoubtedly more of his own making than we’d previously realised. I’ve updated the article accordingly. Thanks!

  13. Ems

    Now, ok so you have managed to leave out the main reason he got kicked out; verbally abusing 2 journalists because of them bringing up the instagram pics of him in a stripclub in the tabloids.

    Also posting a cartoon of a blonde girl saying “what is the difference between me and a mosquito, the mosquito will stop sucking if you hit it”.

    Ooops just saw that somebody else had already corrected you guys, it’s quite important to get yer facts right, yano.

  14. Swede

    (I can source all of the above if you promise to give me the mug and update the article :P)

  15. Swede

    That said I think the whole thing has gone a bit too far now that some of his sponsors are dropping him because of pressure from activists, he’s way less likely to learn from his mistakes if people keep kicking him when he’s down.
    But kicking him off the team was clearly the right decision, you can’t be representing your country in the Olympics if you resort to ugly school yard level personal attacks on journalists just because they wrote some stuff you don’t agree with. And while pictures of sexy butts aren’t sexist (in my opinion at least, the ultra feminists probably won’t agree) jokes about hitting women definitely are.

  16. Swede

    This article is entirely misrepresenting the reason he got the boot. It was primarily because of a post on his blog where he attacked two journalists, saying one looked like a horse and got bullied in school and that the other was fat and must be a virgin, among other things. Oh and that they should both fuck off.
    Also as far as his instagram goes he also posted a joke picture with a caption among the lines of “what’s the difference between a blonde and a mosquito? the mosquito stops sucking after you slap it”.
    So yeah he didn’t get kicked off because of pictures of butts and most of the criticism regarding sexist behavior is not about that either.

    You should update the article cause right now it’s very misleading and whoever supplied you with information clearly has an agenda.

  17. Milly Tant

    I think it’s disgraceful that he could demean women in this way.

    He is a pro-athlete, earning his money in a representative capacity. I think most brands would be ashamed to have this sort of boorish behaviour associated with their product.

    Mind you, his bird does have a cracking arse…

  18. Powder Monkey

    We all know snowboarding faces a paradigm shift driven primarily by the money being pumped into the industry (more marketing $$ spent = a need for more sales = a need for bigger market = a need for bigger audience = mainstream events); KB’s getting kicked off the team is b.ll.cks but why do we care about “National Teams” anyway? Snowboarding is an indvidual sport, if we stepped up and backed rider driven events more then the Olympics would have to work harder to get the best riders there rather than holding all the cards and making national teams feel they need to make these decision. I’m not a marketing or Olympics hater, in fact I am a marketeer (although not an Olympian)but look at it this way, if you get stoked on po riding go spend some money watching it or buy the DVD because the more free clips you watch online the more those sponsors need to get that money back some other way and right now there heading for the biggest TV audience in the world and driving decisions like this

    1. Powder Monkey

      *po = Pro

      * There = They’re

  19. Pontus

    just one word; stupidity

  20. Jim

    Utter bollocks from the Swedish team, KB is a shredder not a politician attacking women’s rights.

    I’m just wondering…..how would they have reacted if he had posted a picture of his own ass? Or Tor Lundstrom’s ass?!

    A gruesome thought but highlights the double standards at play

  21. Michal Klimek

    So you are saying… Sweden got a bit upset by him posting pics of beautiful ladies??? Sweden? The country that brings out some of the hottest blonde bombshells into the porn industry?

    KB man, I’m totally behind you, stay true to your character and your values.

  22. will

    Snowboard stars should be rock’n'roll. You can’t have rock’n'roll without hot girls. Seriously, fuck the Olympics.

  23. mike vidler

    he should not be punished for doing this its his twitter feed he can put on it what he wants if you dont like it dont look at it i would do exactly the same if i was getting that much pussy :P besides its stuff like that that makes him a legend and also i wana see his pictures :P and just so you dont flame me im all in favour of equality if aimee fuller put up pictures of half naked men i wouldnt care either :P bet she wouldnt be off the team for being sexist

  24. Becks Gibson

    The reaction is OTT but are the images sexy or sexist you ask? Neither. I think they’re tacky. A few issues back WL had two great pieces on women and their representation in snowboarding: in particular marketing departments relying on tits and arse to shift product. These pictures evoke the same reaction I have to such unoriginality -”Yawn”.

  25. Joe Emerick

    It’s a double edged sword in Sweden. It’s always been known as politically liberal, yet has sections of society you could call ‘over-liberal’. KB was voted blogger of the year a while ago, which is ample time for the Swedish national team to register their disapproval, so the fact that they’ve done it now shows their just bending to popular pressure. Maybe he should clean up his act, and behave a bit more like a national role model, but certainly not as a reaction to ridiculous, hyper sensitive political correctness that has nothing to do with snowboarding…

  26. Will Wilson

    The shear fact is that its K Bs own Instagram and not affiliated with the Swedish team whatsoever.surely a rider shouldn’t have to censor their lives or stifle their personality in order to represent their country. Sweden’s loss…

  27. David Brighton

    Snowboarding’s not a sport. It’s a lifestyle, the same with freeskiing. Why should he be restricted with what he posts when he’s one of the best snowboarders in the world? It’s silly, how’s he not a role model? He’s swedish, speaks perfect english, has the sickest edits in “Breckenbridge” haha and hot women like him. Snowboarding shouldn’t be dictated by national teams, it’s for yourself. Fuck it, who cares?? It’s like with Jamie Nicholls and swearing, Fuck that, they’re my inspirations and no Shaun White or Danny Kass is going to take that away, or any team either. Snowboarders like the riders, not the team. Why do we only know Tor and Kevin? Because of them. It’s all this energy drink shit and little ski haters who are 12, they make this happen. It’s not like football, it’s so much more. We don’t hate people for what team they’re on and we don’t hate brands just because w don’t ride them. I ride a Bataleon but I like what Capita or Nitro does with their stuff. People have to realise we’re a board culture and we’re not some sport diving in front of the ref for a free throw. I support Kevin and Tor especially for standing by him and quitting. Why should we have teams and olympics? It’s run by the FIS, which don’t even like the freeskiers. “Teams” should be disbanded and we should just keep the WST, instead of all this glory bull. *sparknotes* SNOWBOARDING IS NOT A SPORT, AND IT’S TIME WE TREATED IT THAT WAY.

    1. Andrew Martin

      Lame.

      If KB feels that way then he should have declined the position of paid ATHLETE on the Olympic TEAM of the COUNTRY.

      YOUR personal feelings don’t really matter. His bosses feelings do as he is an EMPLOYEE of the people of Sweden, girls/women included.

      Maybe you’ve never had a real job yet so FYI: show up on time, watch your tone, and don’t spit in the face of your boss or flip them the middle figure (literally and figuratively) if you want to keep your job!

  28. Rich Shredz

    Ignore the haters KB, I think your IG feed is BOOTYFUL dude!!!!

  29. Stuart Evans

    Simply put, ‘its a load of arse’

  30. gary greenshields

    I have know Kevin since he was 12 years old , we spent time together on shoots and comps with the burton team before he moved to nike.
    I want to just say this ……. Kevin loves women i mean who doesn’t right !! i think he has just been taken the wrong way , ok so he posts pics of good looking women on his blog so what !! he just has an eye for beautiful things like everyone else ( eg instagram – people post pics of there kids – friends- food- sunsets – partys- latest eye candy ) does his look on life have to be judged so harsh because some people are no able to understand that thats what he finds beautiful in this world !!!
    one of the many things i admire about Kevin is that he stands for what he believes in and nothing is going to get in his way because of that.
    I mean so many people would have just taken a back seat and let the powers above control the out come of this but no Kevin is standing by his actions and has good reason to ……
    Its a different way to look at something but its his way ,so instead of judging him why not try to understand him and see how he looks at the world , its not like he is posting anything you cant see in the news paper or in the tabloids anyways.
    Give the guy a break he is just enjoying and sharing what makes him happy just like what everyone else does on FB on instagram.
    The world has bigger problems to deal with and like i do admire Kevin and how he stands by what he believes in wither you agree or not he just doing it his way.
    Hater are gonna hate but Kevin is going to keep having fun.
    Take my post any way you like but try to look past all the bad press and know Kevin is a women lover not a hater and a dam fine guy.
    I have his back do you ?

    GG

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