Olympic gold medalist and liar Ryan Lochte is going to reality TV’s version of image rehab: Dancing with the Stars.
People quoted a show “insider” who said that “Ryan has wanted to be on the show for years,” and USA TODAY reported that he was “locking down a deal in the works before his Olympic saga.” So, this casting is apparently not a response to four sponsors dropping him after his entitled, juvenile behavior in Rio.
Still, it’s impossible to separate this news from what happened these past two weeks.
To recap: Lochte said that he and other, younger swimmers were held up at gunpoint and robbed by men pretending to be police in Rio. Instead, it turned out they were detained by private security after he vandalized a convenience store bathroom.
This matters not just because he “over-exaggerated that story,” as he told Matt Lauer during an NBC News interview, but because that lie was “feeding into the Brazil crime reputation” that It also provided “more proof that male athletes are a protected class,” as Mary Elizabeth Williams argues in Salon.
Signing him to do the show makes sense for ABC and BBC Worldwide, which produces the show. His presence will undoubtedly generate interest, and he’ll be more relevant than some of the celebrities that they have to dust off before viewers remember who they are. And Dancing with the Stars has absolutely cast celebrities who’ve demonstrated questionable judgment and behavior, especially those who’ve recently been in the news.
But does paying him and giving him a large platform for the entire fall just reward him for his horrible behavior? Is it yet another example of a male athlete doing something awful and then being instantly forgiven? If he wasn’t in the news, would he have still been signed, and still been an attractive option to be a contestant? And will his behavior be sucha distant memory that it’ll become a cute dance that reenacts his vandalism and pretend hold-up and mocks the situation even more?