Protesters Disrupted Ryan Lochte’s First Night on Dancing With the Stars

Screamed 'You're a liar!' before security intervened

Headshot of Jason Lynch

ABC had expected that Ryan Lochte's debut last night on Dancing With the Stars would drum up a lot of media attention, but not like this.

Monday's season premiere of the dance competition was disrupted by two protestors wearing anti-Lochte shirts, who rushed the stage after Lochte danced the foxtrot with pro partner Cheryl Burke. They screamed "You're a liar!" and were subdued by security, but not before briefly making contact with Lochte.

Viewers watching the live telecast could hear a commotion off-camera while judge Carrie Ann Inaba was giving her critique of Lochte's dance. She said, "Excuse me! Hey, back off!" The cameras then cut to an unnerved Lochte, Burke and host Tom Bergeron, who calmly threw to a commercial break. After the break, Bergeron told viewers there had been "a little incident."

The two men—Sam Sododeh, 48, and Barzeen Soroudi, 40—were detained by Dancing security, turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department and arrested, Officer Mike Lopez of the LAPD told the Los Angeles Times.

"The suspects posed as audience members, then changed clothes to display anti-Lochte T-shirts to disrupt the show," said Lopez, adding that both men had tickets and appeared to have planned the protest. Several other woman in the audience also were wearing anti-Lochte shirts and were yelling, and were taken away during the commercial break.

This morning, Good Morning America released new footage of the confrontation, which showed that one of the men briefly made contact with Lochte as he was being taken away by security.

"So many feelings are going through my head right now," Lochte told Bergeron on-air. The swimmer added that he was "a little hurt, but I came out here. I wanted to do something I'm completely not comfortable with, and I did."

On Thursday, USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee announced that Lochte had been suspended for 10 months from domestic and international competitions as punishment for lying about a supposed armed robbery at a gas station in Rio during the second week of the Olympics.

Lochte had hoped that appearing on Dancing With the Stars would rehabilitate his image, while ABC was eager to capitalize on the buzz, good and bad, around Lochte.

Because Dancing With the Stars is no longer on twice a week, ABC will have until next Monday to decide how else it might address the incident on-air and whether it will change its security procedures for the Dancing with the Stars audience.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: September 13, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT