The video available of protesters rushing the floor during Ryan Lochte's Dancing With the Stars debut was shocking to behold, but for those of us sitting in the audience, the footage barely touches on what actually happened during the live taping.
As an audience member watching the DWTS season premiere, I was extremely startled by the incident. I was eager to see Lochte bust out his dance skills for the first time on national television, and I anxiously watched his performance with Cheryl Burke while on the edge of my seat, both excited and curious to see how he would do.
When it was over, the pair walked over to the judges table to get feedback. I watched them, standing in front of the judges with smiles on their faces and a sense of relief that they pulled off their first performance of the season with grace. But seconds later, the emotions in the room changed.
I saw a man running down the aisle next to me toward the stage. At first, many of us in the audience thought it was a rehearsed skit or some kind of joke the show was about to play on us. It wasn't until I saw Lochte and Burke move out of the way to let security guards charge the man that I realized something was wrong.
The man was screaming, "He's a liar!" as the guards got him to the ground and detained him. My heart started racing as I watched another man from the opposite side come running toward the stage as well and attempt to do the same thing. Both men continued to scream "liar," apparent references to the Rio Olympics scandal that put Lochte in the public-opinion doghouse, as they were being escorted out by security with their hands behind their backs.
While everyone in the studio sat in utter shock, unsure of what just occurred, a full row of audience members stood up with the same anti-Lochte t-shirts and began chanting "liar." Derek Hugh immediately took matters into his own hands forcing those people out while I sat there shaking. It all happened so suddenly. I didn't know what to think. We continued looking around at each other in confusion and disbelief. The host went straight to commercial break as they made sure that Lochte and Burke were okay.
Many of us in the audience felt empathy and compassion for Lochte in that moment. He just did what so many of us are afraid to do: get up in front of millions of viewers to perform a dance number, having never danced before.
His proud moment was taken from him by these protesters. As I watched Ryan get choked up, the crowd began chanting, "We love you, Lochte!" I could read it on Ryan's face that he was not OK, but the encouragement from the audience seemed to have kept him composed and able to continue with the remainder of the show.
It was quite hard to sit through the rest of the performances after such a shock. I was no longer able enjoy myself and I can't help but think I wasn't the only one in the room feeling this way.