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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Lochte should not be excused as ‘just a kid’

The Olympics typically bring people together. They invoke a revitalized sense of patriotism and an appreciation for the insane abilities of our Olympic athletes. 

However, this year two of our formerly beloved Olympians caused controversy that continued even after the Olympics’ end. Gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Ryan Lochte have both been under fire for their recent actions.

According to the Huffington Post, 20 year-old Gabby Douglas received a massive amount of social media hate for refusing to put her hand on her heart when her team won the All-Around Gold Medal, a gesture considered by many to be “disrespectful” to the United States. 

She was also judged heavily for not smiling during her teammates’ events, and displaying what was interpreted by watchers as very negative body language. 

Many on Twitter told her she needed to “fix her attitude” and L.A. Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke accused her of “pouting” on the awards podium. 

Thirty-two year old Olympian Ryan Lochte, on the other hand, drunkenly destroyed property and lied to the public saying he had been randomly held at gunpoint to cover it up. 

Before further investigation of the incident revealed that Lochte was the perpetrator, rather than victim of a crime, fans and the American media were on his side. 

According to SB Nation, gas station muggings are so common in Brazil that the event would not have been further investigated had it not involved a famous Olympic swimmer. The police put extra effort into investigating the case just for Lochte’s benefit. 

When security footage revealed that Lochte himself was guilty, he was still able to fly back to the United States  without even a harsh reprimand.  

SB Nation quotes Rio Olympic spokesman Mario Andrada dismissing Lochte as “a kid” and said, “They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.” 

Lochte was told that he “deserves a break” for allegedly destroying property, defaming a country and lying about a traumatic attack. If this is not a blatant example of white male privilege, then I do not know what is.

While Douglas’ lack of smile and lack of hand on her heart is regarded as a serious spite to our country, the much older Lochte’s actual crimes are excused because he is just a kid and should not have to be held accountable. 

It is obvious that our culture still believes that it is okay for white men to avoid the consequences of their wrongdoings. But why? 

It’s been proven that Lochte fabricated his story and was even caught on camera defacing the property where the incident occurred. Why does he get the benefit of the doubt for a crime while Douglas gets the cold shoulder? 

What if Lochte had been a woman or a person of color? What if he had been more specifically a woman of color? I feel this incident would have received much more negative attention. 

In an NBC interview with Matt Lauer, Lochte admitted that there was never a robbery and that he made the story up. He admitted that he was intoxicated, immature and made a stupid mistake. He also proceeded to excuse himself with statements like, “I’m human and I’m just really sorry.”

 Is Lochte human? Yes. Is he, as a white male, the most privileged form of human? Definitely. 

Had Lochte just accepted and admitted his wrongdoing, he would have gotten a pat on the back and it would have been over. The media would have laughed it off. 

White male privilege is why we laugh at Lochte, but maliciously attack Douglas. According to CNN, four major sponsors will thankfully be dropping Lochte due to his crime and fabrication. 

These sponsors are Ralph Lauren, Speedo, Gentle Hair Remover and mattress maker Airweave. Macy’s may be considering dropping Lochte as well.

 However, regardless of which corporations will or will not endorse Lochte, we need to look at the bigger picture here, and reconsider which people we thoughtlessly choose to personally endorse. 

For hundreds of years white men have been getting away with offensive, “childish” acts by convincing the public that their actions are harmless while women, specifically women of color, do not have that kind of privilege.

It is ridiculous that we are so passive towards white men breaking laws and bringing our country shame, but belligerent and aggressive towards women of color when they commit a minor wrongdoing. While Douglas’s actions can and should be frowned upon, it is not hard to see why she did not want to put her hand on her heart.

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Lochte should not be excused as ‘just a kid’