Ryan Lochte, that swimmer bro we’ve had to put up with for the past four Olympics, just got assed the fuck out (and not for dying his hair gray and turning it green-slash-blue from the pool’s chlorine). It appears that the turquoise bombshell allegedly fabricated a story about getting held up and robbed at gunpoint in Brazil during the Olympics. Yes, this is a prime opp for a good laugh at bro’s expense, but, if true, this is actually just Lochte stoking the fears of white westerners concerned about the safety of Olympians in a developing country where more than half the population identifies as black or mixed race. Cool.
His story to NBC’s Matt Lauer went something like this: I was partying on Sunday night after I disappointed America by not bringing home any individual gold medals, when BOOM, three of my white swimmer brothers and I got rocked for all our shit at gunpoint after the club at around 4 a.m. when our taxi got pulled over in SCARY SCARY Rio de Janeiro. But actually, they didn’t take my cell phone or my Olympics credential. Picky robbers, I guess!
Time reacted by saying that the “brazen robbery of such a high-profile athlete” had “shaken” the Olympics community. The Washington Post took Lochte’s “harrowing” story at face value later that day, writing that it reflected "a troubling pattern of robbery, gunfire and assaults that call into question the ability of Brazil's security forces to keep participants and fans safe." Riiight.
The Brazilian government begs to differ. Cameras show Lochte and his other Olympic swimmer bro friends rolling into the Olympic village drunk at around dawn. Moreover, Brazilian police say one of the swimmer duders wasn’t getting robbed at all but brawling with a security officer and breaking down a door. One report mentions the bros peeing all over the gas station.
So, if true, white American Olympic swimmers are the hoodlums. Just some serious thugs, doing some real thug shit. Trying to fight a gas station security guard at dawn, breaking down a door, peeing everywhere?
Where are their scary mugshots?
Lochte may be the laughingstock of Twitter right now, but he really just took a cue from a long line of white Americans blaming black and brown people for things they didn’t do. It happened in 1931 with the Scottsboro boys when two white women lied about nine young black boys raping them in order to dodge the police for prostitution. It happened when Reagan popularized the mythical “welfare queen.” It happened in the case of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino boys who were convicted of the rape of a 28-year-old white female investment banker.
A privileged white man dreaming up an imaginary robbery at the hands of brown people might have worked in the United States. But Brazil is proving to us that this behavior don’t fly there.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.