Dancing With the Stars, ABC’s celebrity-reality dance competition, has had its fair share of eyebrow-raising contestants in its 23 seasons to date. It’s featured “stars” who clearly didn’t want to be on the show, as well as contestants who made it further in the competition than some fans thought they should (sometimes ironically). But this time around, during the season premiere, one contestant’s appearance sparked an actual protest that required security intervention.
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte had signed up for Dancing With the Stars before Brazilian officials revealed he lied about being robbed in Rio de Janeiro last month. But since his disgrace, many see Lochte as the face of white privilege and don’t think he should continue to profit from his deceit.
In his pre-recorded introduction video last night, Lochte said he wanted to prove to the world that he’s changed and worried about being a failure. In the live portion of the show, his first dance with partner Cheryl Burke was the foxtrot.
The dance itself went off without a hitch, but it was when the judges started to critique Lochte and Burke’s performance that the show went off-script. As judge Carrie Ann Inaba offered her assessment of the dance, two men rushed past her, leaving viewers wondering what happened. Security guards quickly took the men down and handed them over to police. Host Tom Bergeron cut to a commercial break as Lochte and Burke remained visibly shocked. According to one longtime staff member, “It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced.”
The men, who were wearing anti-Lochte shirts, weren’t the only protesters who made it into the taping. Others remained in the crowd, and professional dancer Derek Hough confronted them, telling them to “get out.”
The protestors were arrested by LAPD and have been identified as Sam Sododeh, 48, and Barzeen Soroudi, 40, according to Variety.
Once the scuffle was cleared out, Inaba was able to continue her commentary while Lochte and Burke tried to convey how they were feeling.
“So many feelings are going through my head right now,” Lochte said. “A little hurt. But you know, I came out here, I wanted to do something that I was completely not comfortable with, and I did and I came out with a big smile.”
“I’m shocked and I’m hurt for Ryan,” Burke added. “You know, me and Ryan have gotten the pleasure to know each other. He’s an amazing guy.”
Lochte and Burke received 24 points out of 40 from the judges, which puts them in the middle of the pack with at least one more dance in this competition.