Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Open Letter to Ryan Lochte

ryan lochte (and matt lauer)

Dear Ryan:

Congratulations on your success in Rio. An Olympic gold medal in swimming, bringing your total count to 12, huh? That puts you second behind Micheal Phelps for the most aquatic Olympic medals earned. Impressive!

Despite all the negative publicity about Rio leading up to the summer games – news about the Olympic Village not being ready on time, the crime rate, water pollution and Zika scare – Rio pulled it off. Surely you were aware of the near poverty conditions of most residents there, a notorious crime rate and a police force challenged to keep control.

Still, a person of your status must have received the VIP treatment. You were in the perfect position to serve as an unofficial ambassador of good will; an example of the best of what can be experienced in Rio – Olympic gold medals aside. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for you.

Instead, you exploited Rio’s crime rate as a cover-up for your shenanigans. You chose to play on the fears and negative stereotypes about the host city. When you lied about getting robbed at gunpoint by fake police officers, you had to know your lie would become worldwide news. After all, you’re an All-American golden boy with a squeaky clean image. If you say somebody pointed a gun at your head and threatened to pull the trigger during an apparent robbery of you and your entourage, who would question that?

Had it not been for the video of that night at the gas station (in a crime-ridden place such as Rio there’s bound to be video surveillance, Einstein) and the fact that your cohorts didn’t hold up under the pressure of a police interrogation in your absence I have a feeling you would have stuck with your lie from here to eternity.

You remind me of Charles Stuart. He was the Boston man who murdered his pregnant wife, but told police a black man did it. For weeks innocent black men in the Boston area were interrogated, investigated and harassed by police wasting time, money and other valuable resources. It was easier to believe a negative stereotype than to believe an upstanding family man like Stuart would ever do something so calculating. When police realized Stuart’s story was a lie, he killed himself rather than face the truth and a certain lengthy prison sentence.

You remind me of Susan Smith. She’s the South Carolina woman who told police a black man carjacked her vehicle and kidnapped her two small children who later where found still buckled in their car seats drowned in a nearby lake. I’m sure you guessed what happened next. Black men all over that area were presumed guilty until proven innocent. A damsel in distress white woman would never kill her own children to make herself more attractive to a male suitor. Until Smith confessed that truth.

In your case, Ryan, nobody was killed. Still, the only difference between you, Stuart and Smith is they used black men in America as their boogie man. You used brown men in Brazil as yours. Different country, same negative perpetual stereotype used to instill fear.

Now in TV interviews you claimed to have learned a valuable lesson from all this. I, for one, am getting tired of people – like yourself who should know better – spewing stereotypical offensive dialog and behaving badly, then insulting my intelligence after the fact with insincere apologies. You shouldn’t have to get caught in an international scandal to learn a valuable lesson. You’re not a teenager. You’re 32. Just as you learned the law of cause and effect by training for and winning Olympic gold, it’s time you learn about the laws of crime and punishment.

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Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at to send comments, questions or for speaking inquiries.





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