The Most Controversial Dancing With the Stars Contestants Ever

Dancing With The Stars Ryan Lochte Cheryl Burke
(Eric McCandless/Getty Images)
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ABC competition series Dancing With the Stars is gearing up for Season 32, and after the cast reveal earlier this week, fans already aren’t happy. As it turns out, one of the upcoming season’s contestants has a disturbing history of domestic abuse allegations. And it’s not the first time casting has lead to backlash before the season’s even begun. We’re looking back at the celebrity contestants who have caused a stir over the years.

Adrian Peterson, Season 32

(ABC/Andrew Eccles)

After NFL running back Adrian Peterson was announced for Season 32, it didn’t take long for disturbing past allegations to resurface.

In 2014, Adrian was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to his 4-year-old son. Last year, the former Minnesota Viking and his wife, Ashley Peterson, were removed from a plane at LAX after a verbal and physical altercation.

This well-documented history of abuse is not sitting well with DWTS viewers. There are many celebrities who would love to compete on the hit series. Surely, producers had their pick of athletes who haven’t been charged with child abuse. And it’s certainly not fair to pro dancer Britt Stewart.

It remains to be seen how ABC will respond to the backlash. However, even if Adrian isn’t disqualified, we imagine he’ll get eliminated early on. For now, the resurfaced allegations have taken some heat off another controversial Season 32 contestant, Jamie Lynn Spears.

Sean Spicer, Season 28

Should political figures compete on DWTS? We learn towards no. It’s too divisive, and takes away from what makes the show so fun. Especially when it’s someone like Sean Spicer. Casting Sean after his role in the Trump administration, where he constantly lied and spewed dangerous rhetoric, was a confounding move.

Host Tom Bergeron spoke out against the Season 28 casting choice. He made waves for releasing a statement on Twitter, revealing he advised producers not to cast political figures given the current climate. Surely, the longtime host also remembered the show’s past controversies with Tucker Carlson and Rick Perry. It may or may not be a coincidence that Tom was not asked back as host for Season 29.

Despite the controversy, as well as his consistently low scores, Sean made it pretty far. In addition to Tom’s obvious disdain, the judges also didn’t hide their frustrations as Sean kept getting saved by audience votes.

Ryan Lochte, Season 23

(Eric McCandless/Getty Images)

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was such a controversial contestant that protestors actually crashed his performance during the Season 23 premiere. The athlete was cast shortly after the fiasco where he lied about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio during the 2016 Olympics. Ultimately, Ryan just wasn’t as successful in the ballroom as he was in the pool.

Olivia Jade, Season 30

Olivia Jade and Val Chmerkovskiy Dancing With the Stars
[Photo Credit: ABC/Maarten de Boer]

Remember the college admissions scandal? 90s kids were stunned when Full House’s Aunt Becky, aka Lori Loughlin, was charged with committing fraud to get her daughter, Olivia Jade, into USC.

Though Olivia Jade had previous success as a YouTuber and influencer, this launched her into infamy. She more or less became the face of privileged youth. Even though the judges were impressed by her dancing, the beauty blogger was regularly on the chopping block. And she had to respond to unfounded rumors about her hooking up with married partner Val Chmerkovskiy. She didn’t make the semifinals, but Olivia was proud of herself for working hard.

Carole Baskin, Season 29

Kelsey McNeal/Getty Images
Kelsey McNeal/Getty Images

During the pandemic, Netflix’s Tiger King took the world by storm. It wasn’t surprising that a cast member of the docuseries would appear on DWTS. But did producers overlook that Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin was suspected of having something to do with her husband’s disappearance? The kooky dance routines didn’t win viewers over, as Carole and partner Pasha Pashkov were eliminated second.

Jennifer Grey, Season 11

Adam Larkey/Getty Images)
Adam Larkey/Getty Images)

Many DWTS contestants are controversial not because of any scandal, but rather due to their previous dancing experience. For years, viewers have argued it’s an unfair advantage especially when it came to Season 11 winner Jennifer Grey, who starred in Dirty Dancing, the most famous dance movie ever.

However, the backlash hasn’t deterred producers from casting celebrities who became famous for their dancing skills in the first place. This includes Season 30 runner-up Jojo Siwa and Season 31 winner Charli D’Amelio.

Ideally, the winner of this show is a celebrity who becomes a great dancer over the weeks. It’s a more exciting journey that way. But is a ringer better than a celeb who wins despite remaining a poor dancer the entire time?

Bobby Bones, Season 27

DWTS Bobby Bones
Kelsey McNeal/Getty Images

Radio host Bobby Bones isn’t just one of the most controversial contestants. He’s also possibly the most controversial Mirrorball Trophy winner of all time. Bobby, along with pro partner Sharna Burgess, made it to the finals despite earning low scores all season long. Ergo, his win was shocking to say the least.

The fact that he actually won—and that it’s still unclear how that even happened—makes Bobby stand out. His name alone is a touchy subject for DWTS fans to this day. The backlash was so strong that Sharna wasn’t asked to return the following season. But despite her sole trophy win being tainted, Bobby isn’t Sharna’s worst partner.


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