Two men rushed the stage during a performance of “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday claiming they wanted to enact revenge on Ryan Lochte.
The men, who were wearing anti-Ryan Lochte TV shirts, said they wanted to get back at Lochte for embarrassing Americans during the Brazil Summer Olympics. Lochte lost endorsement deals and was lampooned across the world after he lied about getting mugged at gunpoint while in Rio.
“What he did in Rio did not represent Americans well,” Barzeen Soroudi, one of the protesters, said in a video interview obtained by TMZ. Soroudi faces trespassing charges.
The 25-year-old and his partner in crime, Sam Sotoodeh, 59, said they were both in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games last month and that the swimmer’s actions made them and other Americans targets during the time.
“We didn’t agree, obviously, with Walt Disney Company choosing Lochte to represent Americans,” Soroudi said. “I want the world to know, we want Americans to know that we don’t take what he did lightly. He embarrassed Americans on the world stage and this was our form of protesting it.”
The two men walked on to the dance floor while Lochte, 32, was receiving the judges’ comments about his foxtrot with partner Cheryl Burke. Sotoodeh was tackled by show security while Soroudi was taken off stage.
The incident was not shown on the live show, but ABC released off-camera footage.
Sotoodeh later complained that he was manhandled during a peaceful protest.
“I don’t understand why the people over there did that, I wasn’t even going towards Lochte. I was going in a different direction,” Sotoodeh said about being tackled. “I have bruises and my back also hurts, my neck hurts.”
He added: “Our purpose is to get the message out that Lochte is a coward, a liar and under Brazilian law, a criminal.”
During the incident, Lochte injured his ankle, Burke said in a blog posting for People magazine. She added that it will probably take them a couple of weeks to put the incident behind them.
“At the end of the day, we are all just so grateful that no one was more seriously injured,” she wrote. “This is a family-friendly show that should never be the source of any hate. It's about celebrating dance and making people happy and I look forward to getting back to that next week.”
Lochte said he was emotionally “a little hurt.”
“I came out here and wanted to do something I am completely not comfortable with,” he said. “I came out there with a big smile and have the best fan support here.”
BBC Worldwide Productions, who puts on the show, told USA Today that they are conducting a full evaluation of security procedures and protocols.
Host Tom Bergeron said everyone in the studio was shocked when the two men rushed the stage and described the incident as “really unnerving.”
“I think they proved they weren’t VIP seats,” he said on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “They were just part of our typical audience. They went through the screening process like anybody else. And I think they had dressed appropriately for the show and then tore those away to reveal those T-shirts.”
Lochte is trying to change his image after being involved in the early-morning drunken encounter at a Brazil gas station. USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee banned him for 10 months and ordered him to forfeit $100,000 in bonuses. Because of his suspension, he will miss the 2017 world championship.