American swimmer Ryan Lochte is all the media—and Twitter—seems to be talking about today. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, became the center of conversation after he claimed he and three other U.S. swimmers were robbed at gunpoint after a night of partying in Rio. Initially, Lochte told NBC’s Billy Bush he had “a gun pointed to his head” by a group of guys claiming to be police officers while their valuables were stolen.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground,” Lochte explained on Monday.
After refusing to get down, Lochte said he only complied with the renegade officers after a cocked gun was placed to his head.
“The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and said ‘get down.’ I was like…I put my hands up,” Lochte told Bush. “I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet.”
The incident not only sounded terrifying, but it also was yet another blow to Brazil’s handling of the Olympic games. Before folks got caught up in Simone Biles’ history-making run, Usain Bolt once again decimating his opponents, or Mo Farah’s amazing recovery and win, the chatter leading up to this year’s games was all about the Zika virus, the poor quality of Rio’s water, the incomplete Olympic village, and how the Brazilian government had pushed poor (largely Black folks) out of the city to make room for tourists.
Lochte’s tale of being robbed by seemingly corrupt cops was not only in line with what many already believed about nations full of people of color, but it also tainted the spirit of the entire games. After his story broke many wondered if other athletes were at risk, and if people actually trust Brazilian police not to shake them down.
Sensing that something terrible had happened, Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada apologized for the apparent robbery, but Brazilian police weren’t ready to believe Lochte’s story.
“We knew it wasn’t robbery on Sunday after talking to two of them. The stories did not match,” Officer Marcelo Carregosa, who is second in charge of dealing with tourists in Rio, told the Washington Post. “Ryan was very evasive and he did not give details.”
Soon, media outlets found video of Lochte and the other swimmers, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger reentering the Olympic Village after the robbery was said to have taken place, only their valuables seem to be in tact.
Then, Lochte’s story began changing.
Though we don’t know exactly what happened, police say the swimmers vandalized a bathroom at a local gas station after a night of partying. When the business’ security guards approached them wait for police, the group attempted to leave. The security officers then demanded the group pay for the damages, and Lochte and the others paid up, then returned to the Olympic Village.
This incident could have gone away quietly, but instead of merely taking the L for getting a little too crazy after a night out, Lochte apparently concocted the story of the harrowing robbery, which of course, was told in such a way to make him appear both sympathetic and brave.
While the whole thing is quite amusing, the response to Lochte’s lie is perhaps the most amusing thing of them all.
A week ago, gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas was roundly criticized for a host of things, including her decision to stand at attention instead of place her hand over her heart during the national anthem. Douglas was attacked for her so-called lack of patriotism, despite being the darling of the London games just four years ago. Conversely, Lochte has apparently lied about a crime, created an international incident, flew back to the U.S., made Brazil look terrible, and yet Andrada—Rio’s spokesperson for the games—said the swimmer doesn’t owe his country an apology because “they had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) August 18, 2016
Now, if that ain’t the Whitest ish I’ve ever heard.
While some have given Lochte a pass, citing, “Boys will be boys,” Fox Sports News radio host Nick Wright wondered how things would be different if the men breaking up the bathroom—then lying about it—were members of the mostly-Black U.S. basketball squad.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) August 18, 2016
Can you imagine the level of racially charged outrage about over-paid “thugs,” “gangsters,” or worse, racial slurs that would fill up social media had Carmelo Anthony and his boys torn up the bathroom, then claimed to get robbed by fake police? I have no doubt President Obama would be asked to comment, Black Lives Matter would get blamed, and people would probably never let them live it down.
Instead, Lochte is being given the benefit of the doubt by folks who are “waiting for all the details” before they make a determination about the swimmer’s story, or arguing that what he did wasn’t actually lie but rather “embellish” the truth.
Listen, it’s clear White privilege is real. White folks don’t really have to worry about getting racially profiled; they can fight, pull a gun, or shoot at police and still live; they qualify for better home loans; get called for job interviews; and apparently, they are given the benefit of the doubt when they’re caught up in a blatant lie that sparks an international scandal.
Must be nice.