If Dancing with the Stars wanted controversy and action in casting Ryan Lochte they certainly got it in the season 23 premiere. As judge Carrie Ann Inaba was critiquing Lochte’s performance, a group of protesters “rushed” the stage, interrupting Inaba. 

The protesters, upset over Lochte’s appearance, had to be escorted off by security. During the actual broadcast, the protesters were not given any airtime and the event was only referred to as an “incident.” Since the airing, details are beginning to pour out about the protesters and the reaction of the cast and crew of Dancing with the Stars, and video has been released of the “incident.” 

Dancing with the Stars Season 23 Premiere Recap: The First Dances >>> Things started out relatively harmlessly with Lochte. Lochte and his professional partner, Cheryl Burke, danced the foxtrot to the situation-appropriate “Call Me Irresponsible.” The performance is embedded below and it was a good but not great dance. Lochte didn’t act quite as big a fool as he could have on the Dancing with the Stars stage. Obviously, some people in the audience wouldn’t have been happy with whatever Lochte managed to do on stage. 

Moments after Lochte finished, two protesters walked onto the stage screaming that Lochte was a liar. The men were carried off by security and one was tackled. They were wearing anti-Lochte t-shirts which bore Lochte’s name with a cross sign blocking the name out. Video footage captured by local news affiliate ABC 7 is embedded below and shows what Dancing with the Stars didn’t air during the broadcast. 

According to People.com, the men were not alone. They were with a group with four women who were wearing identical anti-Lochte shirts. The women apparently started a anti-Lochte chant during the impromptu commercial break and were told by professional dancer Derek Hough to leave. Hough told the protesters, “Get out! C’mon, get out! It’s a good show — it’s a positive show!” 

Hough later gave an interview to US Weekly saying, “I feel like this is my home, and you don’t bring that into my home. You don’t bring that into our home. This is a positive place, it’s a loving place, it’s a place of learning, of triumph … and I got upset because I’m so sick of this world judging each other and condemning each other. There’s so much negativity.” 

Hough wasn’t the only professional dancer to talk to US Weekly. Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy also spoke up about their feelings watching the protesters walking onto the stage. 

Ryan Lochte Shares His Hopes for Dancing with the Stars As He Receives 10-Month Suspension from Swimming >>>

“I felt uneasy that Peta was in the front row, so I ran out, and when I saw that they weren’t near her, I was good,” Maks explained, talking about fiance Peta Murgatroyd. “I don’t encourage anybody running up to you and telling you what they think about what you did — because that’s none of [their] business. You don’t do it!”

“It was just unusual and unnecessary and it was a distraction, but [Cheryl] handled herself like a champ and she kept it together. I’m very proud of her. She didn’t let it bother her,” Val added. 

Deadline reports that the men were protesting Lochte because they felt he put American lives at risk during his incident at the Rio Olympics where he publicly urinated, vandalized a poster and then lied about it to authorities, saying he was robbed at gunpoint. 

The protest seems to have backfired because rather than cause more negative feelings towards Lochte, the Dancing with the Stars audience has rallied behind him. DWTS host Tom Bergeron explained in an interview that Lochte received a standing ovation from the live audience. “Times of crisis, if you will, certainly bring people together; in this case that certainly was true,” Bergeron commented.

Lastly, Lochte commented on the event in a very brief interview with E! Online. Lochte explains that the incident made him feel like “someone reached inside and ripped my heart out and stepped on it.” The whole interview can be found embedded below. 

But what do you think? Do you feel bad for Lochte? Did the protesters change your view of Lochte and his involvement in his Rio misdeeds? Do you think this is the last time that Dancing with the Stars will run into problems with Lochte? 

Dancing with the Stars season 23 will air Monday and Tuesday at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC, videos courtesy of ABC and E!)

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.