LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - NBC is sticking with its decision to cast Mike Tyson in an upcoming episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." In fact, it's moving the episode up a week from its original air date.
Tyson's guest spot on "SVU" - which sparked outrage online, in light of Tyson's rape conviction - will air February 6. The episode was originally scheduled to air on February 13.
On the episode, former boxing champ Tyson plays Reggie Rhodes, a murderer on death row who was the victim of a difficult childhood. (Andre Braugher, most recently of ABC's "Last Resort," also guest-stars.)
After news of the episode broke, a petition was posted on Change.org, urging NBC to cast someone other than Tyson in the role, or to pull the episode altogether.
"Am I the only one who remembers that Mike Tyson was CONVICTED and sent to prison for raping Desiree Washington?" Marcie Kaveney, an abuse survivor and advocate who started the petition, wrote in her online plea. "I am sorry but I see this as just another way to clean-up his image."
"While we understand Mr. Tyson has served his time; it seems as though the only person who will benefit from his guest appearance will be him," the petition, addressed to various NBC executives as well as "SVU" creator Dick Wolf and showrunner Warren Leight, reads. "There are many sexual assault survivors as well as others who consider your decision to be in poor judgment. Mr. Tyson has never publicly apologized to his victim nor has he admitted his crime. In fact, he has publicly ridiculed his victim."
The petition has so far amassed more than 12,000 signatures.
In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping beauty pageant contestant Washington. Sentenced to six years in prison, he ultimately served three.
NBC had no comment for TheWrap on why the episode was rescheduled. However, an individual with knowledge of the shuffle told TheWrap that, contrary to earlier reports, the rescheduling is unconnected to the fact that One Billion Rising, a protest in support of female abuse victims, is scheduled to take place the day after the original air date.
Tyson has dabbled in show business in recent years, appearing in cameos in "The Hangover" movie franchise, and performing in a one-man show, "Undisputed Truth," which is scheduled to begin a tour next month.
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