In a September 2023 episode of her podcast, Burgess slammed producers for casting former NFL player Adrian Peterson, and stated she would have refused to dance with him on the show.
In an interview with Variety, Burke said that while she understands Burgess’ concerns regarding past abuse allegations against Peterson, she doesn’t agree with how she would have handled things had the controversial former NFL player been named her partner.
Neither Burke nor Burgess will compete in the upcoming season of the ABC celebrity ballroom show. Burke announced her retirement from the show in 2022, while Burgess was not asked back for season 32. Peterson is partnered with pro dancer Britt Stewart for the new season.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cheryl Burke Explained Why She Would Have Danced With Adrian Peterson
Peterson’s casting on DWTS has been controversial. In 2014, the former football pro was charged with child abuse after he allegedly injured his young son with a switch while disciplining him, per court documents viewed by Heavy. Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault, and he was fined and assigned community service and probation. He was also temporarily suspended from the NFL without pay, per USA Today.
According to Sports lllustrated, in 2022 Peterson was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence following an argument with his wife, Ashley. Peterson’s wife later stated that he never hit her.
While speaking with Variety, Burke noted that controversy sometimes comes with the territory on DWTS. “We’ve had a lot of controversial characters on the show,” she said. “I think when I danced with Ray Lewis, that was a bit controversial.”
Burke made sure to clarify that “When it comes to abuse, I do agree with Sharna,” but she added that her professionalism would keep her from reacting in a negative way.
“You sign up to be a part of the show,” she said. “And honestly, as a pro dancer, whoever walks in through that door, you don’t turn around and walk out. You’re signing up for this. It’s not like you can request, but if you say certain things that you’re triggered by, you would hope that that wouldn’t happen.”
“I respect [Burgess], of course,” Burke added. “I come from abuse as a little girl. At the end of the day, I don’t promote it. But my job is, I’m an employee. You can’t just turn around and walk out and say I’m sorry. That’s not part of the contract. It’s a fine line.”
Sharna Burgess Said She Would Have Walked Out if She Had Been Partnered With Adrian Peterson
Burke’s remarks were in response to Burgess’ comments about Peterson’s casting on her iHeartRadio podcast, “Old-ish.”
“There’s one person that I’d like to share that I’m really shocked is on there is Adrian Peterson, the football player,” the Australian dancer said on her podcast in September 2023. “The man has been charged with child abuse of his four-year-old son in the way that he punishes him and that is just devastating for me.”
“I’m telling you now, if I walked into a room and that was my partner, I would turn around and walk right out,” Burgess added. “There is no way — now being a mother — I would be able to stomach that.”
On social media, some fans have urged Stewart to step down from “Dancing With the Stars” this season. As of this writing, the dancer has not publicly commented on the backlash against her partner. But Burke said she does not blame Stewart for continuing on “Dancing With the Stars” despite the controversy over her partner.
“Honestly, for most of these pro dancers, they are counting their blessings that they are asked back,” she explained to Variety. “Think of most jobs in America. Most people don’t want to be there. We’re lucky that we get to do what we love to do and get paid for it on national television.”
“Dancing With the Stars” premieres Tuesday, September 26 at 8/7c on ABC.