Ryan Lochte is the diablo. You know this because you, like every other citizen of the media world, have consumed the verdade on NBC and elsewhere. You have passed julajamento on Ryan Lochte and his ugly, entitled Americano ways. If you’re Speedo, you’ve cut him loose. Drunk, brazen, greedy, rich, and beautiful, Ryan Lochte deserves desprezo. Mucho desprezo.
Except, it might not be so simple.
When I heard the story — Ryan Lochte’s mom says he was robbed, Ryan disputes, Ryan says he was robbed, police dispute, much confusion, vandalism, frat-boy attitude, corrupt police, Ryan Lochte liar and finally the conclusion: Americans are awful people and this awfulness is embodied by a guy named Ryan Lochte — here’s what I thought in order:
Enough of this collective guilt garbage. Enough of the rushing to judgment so we can feel morally superior from our perch at the computer screen or while watching TV. Enough of buying, unquestioningly, into tired narratives that always come at the expense of Americans.
And for those who feel that I’m excusing a lying liar who lies, please consider this from the USA Today:
Seven days after an incident that will in part define the Rio Olympics, details are becoming clearer about what happened during a gas station encounter between four U.S. swimmers and security guards, and not everyone has concluded Ryan Lochte and his teammates are entirely in the wrong or that the account offered by Rio authorities is entirely accurate.
Lochte has admitted he exaggerated his initial description of how the four men were stopped in their taxi and robbed by men who flashed badges, as well as his sensational allegation of a gun being held to his forehead.
But a narrative of the night’s events — constructed by USA TODAY Sports from witness statements, official investigations, surveillance videos and media reports — supports Lochte’s later account in which he said he thought the swimmers were being robbed when they were approached at a gas station by armed men who flashed badges, pointed guns at them and demanded money.
A Brazilian judge says police might have been hasty in determining the security guards, by how they dealt with the swimmers, did not commit a robbery. A lawyer who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years says she does not think the actions of Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen constitute the filing of a false police report as defined under Brazilian law.
An extensive review of surveillance footage by a USA TODAY Sports videographer who also visited the gas station supports swimmer Gunnar Bentz’s claim that he did not see anyone vandalize the restroom, an allegation that in particular heightened media portrayals of the four as obnoxious Americans behaving recklessly in a foreign country. Meanwhile, Rio authorities have declined to identify the guards or offer any details beyond confirming they are members of law enforcement who were working a private security detail.
As the Rio Games closing ceremony was held Sunday night, all four swimmers had left Brazil. Two of them, Bentz and Jack Conger, face no charges. Feigen paid a settlement to avoid charges and returned home. [Ed: Extortion]
The case against Lochte, who has been pilloried around the world for his embellished initial account and blamed for offending an entire country as it proudly hosted the Summer Olympics, has yet to proceed.
It is clear from all accounts that a Portuguese-English language barrier played a major role in the incident and that a bilingual Brazilian witness who stepped forward at the scene was critical in preventing a tense situation from escalating.
Is it possible that this all was a big misunderstanding? That a language barrier was made worse by drunkenness and fear? That guns were pulled? That money was exchanged? That wrong conclusions were drawn?
It’s too late now, though. The world has passed judgment and Lochte is already paying a steep price for being drunk, stupid, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Locate’s reputation is in tatters and his endorsements are drying up.
Here’s what won’t happen: If it turns out that Ryan Lochte told the truth as he saw it and didn’t do the things he was accused of doing, will everyone apologize? Will people say, hey, you know, I might have leapt to the wrong conclusion and I’m sorry that this guy is losing everything because I and everyone I know rushed to condemn a fool, yes, but an honest fool?
No, they won’t. The wrong ugly Americans may be on trial here.