NBC is taking flack for casting Mike Tyson–a convicted rapist and accused serial abuser–as a victim of abuse in an upcoming episode of Law & Order: SVU.
Tyson will portray a death row inmate who was abused as a child and was convicted of murdering one of his abusers.
The network originally scheduled the episode, which finished filming months ago, to air on Feb. 13. NBC later rescheduled it to air on Feb. 6 in order to distance its air date from an international, anti-violence event planned for Feb. 14. The event, the One Billion Rising march, is meant to raise awareness of abuse and violence against women.
The casting was protested by rape survivor Marcie Kaveney who started a petition to have NBC recast the role removing the convicted Tyson. The petition received more than 7,000 signatures.
Kaveney, a rape-crises advocate from Fort Meyers, FL, told the Washington Post, “As soon as I saw it [in a news report], I just saw red.”
On her petition, Kaveney laments Tyson’s casting, saying, “As an advocate and a survivor, my heart aches at the thought that this man gets a free pass because he is famous! I can’t even begin to imagine what this news would mean to his victim.”
In 1991 Tyson was convicted of raping 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington and served a six-year sentence. Also, in the late 1980s, Tyson was accused of multiple cases of domestic abuse of his one-time wife, Robin Givens.
Tyson has weighed in on the television show controversy, saying he’s been sober for five years and in that time has remained a law-abiding citizen. “I’m just trying to live my life,” the former boxer told TV Guide in an interview about Kaveney’s petition.
“I didn’t rape nobody or do anything like that, and this lady wasn’t there to know if I did or not,” he added.