Season 32 of “Dancing with the Stars” has finally started and fans have been buzzing about the cast of celebrities hitting the dance floor. One contestant in particular, football star Adrian Peterson, has been particularly controversial.
Peterson is partnering with returning pro Britt Stewart, and their first performance received a score of 18 out of 30. Peterson and Stewart seem to be off to a great start in season 32, but having him as a contestant on the show has sparked some backlash from both DWTS fans and former pros.
Sharna Burgess has been especially outspoken about a past controversy from Peterson’s personal life, and she just shared an apology and incorporated some nuance about how complicated this type of situation can be.
Here’s what you need to know:
Sharna Burgess Acknowledged ‘Contracts Are Contracts’
After Peterson’s casting was announced, “Dancing with the Stars” pro Sharna Burgess spoke out about it. On her new podcast, “Old-ish,” she declared, “I’m telling you now if I walked into a room and that was my partner, I would turn around and walk right out.” She added, “There is no way — now being a mother — I would be able to stomach that.”
Now, Burgess has gone into more detail about her thoughts. During the September 26 episode of Cheryl Burke’s podcast, “Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans,” Burgess joined the show and the women discussed the Peterson situation.
Burgess acknowledged, “It’s all good and well for me to say now” that she would walk out if she was paired with Peterson or someone similar. She added, “I can say that sitting here not under contract.”
The “Dancing with the Stars” veteran explained that now that she’s a mother, to her son Zane with fiance Brian Austin Green, she has a “very visceral reaction with anything to do with kids. An emotional response.” Burgess added that it’s not that simple though.
“When you’re under contract, you have absolutely no choice. You will be in breach of contract, you could be sued” by walking out or refusing the partnership.
She also noted that it’s different if a “Dancing with the Stars” pro is in a truly unsafe situation. Even then, proper protocols must be followed, Burgess pointed out, and she admitted she found herself in this very type of situation with a couple of previous partners.
Burgess also admitted her previous comments were “my emotional response to something I found out about that day. Contracts are contracts.”
Burgess Revealed a Professional Dancer’s ‘Only Saving Grace’
Burgess emphasized that someone in Stewart’s position cannot simply turn down a partner like Peterson. “We don’t have a choice. And I’m deeply sorry if my comments made people believe that she did have a choice because you don’t.”
The “Dancing with the Stars” pro did have some advice for those in a situation like that. “Film everything… constantly have your phone running because that is the only proof that you have if you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable.”
She noted, “I’m not saying [Stewart] is in one [with Peterson], I don’t know what their dynamic is like, I don’t know what he is like as a person.” She also noted that the cameras that are already taping the pairs rehearsing aren’t always recording. As a result, filming continuously yourself is “your only saving grace” if you find yourself in a problematic situation and need help.
Adrian Peterson’s Casting Came With Controversy
As soon as “Dancing with the Stars” fans learned Peterson was cast for season 32, references to incidents from his personal life resurfaced online. In 2014, CBS News reported that Peterson was indicted by a grand jury for “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” The allegations involved Peterson’s then 4-year-old son, who detailed several incidents where he received a “whooping.”
USA Today noted Peterson entered a plea of no contest to a lesser charge and he avoided time in jail. In addition, in 2022, an argument with his wife on an airplane led to an arrest. The issue was resolved when Peterson agreed to pursue alcohol counseling along with counseling for domestic violence.
In November 2018, Peterson told Bleacher Report, “I had to discipline my son and spank him the other day with a belt… There’s different ways I discipline my kids. I didn’t let [the earlier allegations] change me.”