They’ve got his back. After protesters rushed the Dancing With the Stars stage following Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke‘s debut performance on Monday, September 12, fellow cast members including Derek Hough and Maksim Chmerkovskiy showed their support for the visibly shaken Olympic athlete.
As Us Weekly previously reported, Lochte and Burke, both 32, were listening to judge Carrie Ann Inaba’s feedback when two audience members wearing anti-Lochte shirts ran onto the dance floor and caused a commotion before being tackled and escorted out by security guards. A group of women wearing the same shirts continued to boo from the audience, prompting dance pro Hough to walk over and yell at the women (who were also removed from the premises).
“I feel like this is my home, and you don’t bring that into my home. You don’t bring that into our home,” Hough, 31, told Us Weekly after the end of the season 23 premiere Monday night. “This is a positive place, it’s a loving place, it’s a place of learning, of triumph … and I got upset because I’m so sick of this world judging each other and condemning each other. There’s so much negativity.”
The six-time DWTS champ continued, “I just watched [Ryan and Cheryl] dance and I was super proud of them, and I was like, ‘This guy is out here doing what he can and trying to be himself and he put himself in a vulnerable position.’ … I hope it puts emphasis on people just letting it go. Because [the protesters] looked so stupid. They looked so foolish and cowardly.”
Lochte’s name made headlines countless times toward the end of last month’s 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He and three fellow Team USA swimmers (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen) vandalized a Rio gas station bathroom and were asked by security guards to pay for the damage. Lochte was under fire because he initially claimed he was robbed at gunpoint, but authorities later learned there wasn’t evidence of a robbery.
Chmerkovskiy, 36, who returned to the DWTS ballroom after a four-season break Monday night with partner Amber Rose, was also alarmed by the protesters, specifically because his pregnant fiancée, Peta Murgatroyd, was watching from the front row.
“I felt uneasy that Peta was in the front row, so I ran out, and when I saw that they weren’t near her, I was good,” the Ukranian hunk told Us. “I don’t encourage anybody running up to you and telling you what they think about what you did — because that’s none of [their] business. You don’t do it!”
Maks’ brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, expressed similar sentiments. “It was just unusual and unnecessary and it was a distraction, but [Cheryl] handled herself like a champ and she kept it together. I’m very proud of her. She didn’t let it bother her,” Val (who is partnered with Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez this season) told Us. “I’m always protective over my partners, but this season it’s very different. I’m not working with some freestanding adult that knows what she’s doing. I’m responsible for [Laurie’s] well-being from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes to sleep. … So if someone could run out like that, are you kidding? I will protect her, absolutely.”
Pro dancer Allison Holker and her partner, music producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, hit the dance floor before Lochte and Burke’s performance and were backstage when they heard the commotion.
“I [didn’t] know what was going on, but in this ballroom as a pro, as a celebrity, we all come together as one, and we are supposed to be unified and support each other,” Holker told Us. “I’m sending so much love to Ryan — he’s here, and we should all be forgiving in our lives, and he’s doing something for himself right now.”
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