Professional dancer Cheryl Burke, who was part of DWTS from Season 2 to Season 31, spoke out about Peterson’s casting, saying that she agreed with fellow pro Sharna Burgess, who previously said she’d have walked out of the show if she’d been paired with the football star.
“We’ve had a lot of controversial characters on the show. I think I danced with Ray Lewis — that was a bit controversial. When it comes to abuse, I do agree with Sharna,” Burke told Variety regarding Peterson’s inclusion in the upcoming season.
“However, you sign up to be a part of the show. And honestly, as a pro dancer, whoever walks in through that door, you don’t turn around and walk out,” she continued. “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.”
In 2014, Peterson was indicted on felony child abuse charges for reckless or negligent injury to a child after he had used a wooden implement to discipline his four-year-old son. He pleaded no contest and was fined $4,000, performed 80 hours of community service, and served two years probation.
On a recent episode of her podcast Old-ish, Burgess said, “I’m telling you now, if I walked into a room and that was my partner, I would turn around and walk right out. There is no way, now, being a mother, I would be able to stomach that.”
Burke said, “I respect [Burgess], of course. 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.”
Neither Burgess nor Burke are part of the upcoming 32nd season, having both previously left the show. Peterson will be paired with professional Britt Stewart.
Burke defended Stewart, saying, “We have zero say of who we dance with. Honestly, for most of these pro dancers, they are counting their blessings that they are asked back. 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.”
That’s not the only controversy surrounding the hit competition series, as the show has also faced backlash for going ahead amid the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild picketing.
“Everyone’s focus is to keep 500 people employed,” a production source told Variety, noting that the one WGA writer who works on the show will be back as soon as the strikes come to an end.
The source added that the show would be working in compliance with SAG-AFTRA rules while making sure not to put talent in a tough spot, seeing as many of the Season 32 cast members are part of the actors’ guild.
Commenting on DWTS‘s decision to film amid the strikes, Burke told Variety, “After the Drew Barrymore thing, I have mixed feelings,” referring to Barrymore’s recent decision to backtrack and cancel the tapings of her daytime talk show.
“In order for things to change, we have to stick together, point blank, because if one show just decides to think about the show on its own, this is not going to make big changes,” Burke continued. “It is not going to change the way these other people, the opposing team, are thinking.”
“Even the cast of Friends, when they asked for more money, they all stuck together,” she added. “The problem is that if we don’t, then we’re setting a precedent, and I don’t think it’s gonna be good for the show, to be quite honest, in the long run. I understand what they’re thinking, and I get it. It’s a business, but there is no business without the rest of the business.”
Dancing with the Stars, Season 32 Premiere, Tuesday, September 26, 8/7c, ABC