Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion turned part-time actor, makes his much-anticipated appearance on Law & Order: SVU on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET/PT, NBC).
There's been no shortage of controversy surrounding Tyson's appearance, given the show's subject matter and the ex-fighter's history (he was convicted of rape in 1992). The announcement prompted a Change.org petition that's garnered more than 15,000 signatures, including that of NCIS star and abuse survivor Pauley Perrette. Slate's Alyssa Rosenberg blasted it as detrimental to the show's credibility, while Jezebel's Lindy West was even more pointed:
Now, Tyson completed his sentence and is free to live his life at this point. But that doesn't mean we all have to be complicit in the rehabilitation of his image. That doesn't mean SVU has to hire him. Like I said, SVU's not perfect, but it's something -- a small counterpoint to the rape apologia that currently pervades our culture. It at least attempts to unpack tough ideas about shame and victim blaming and the way we protect rapists by stigmatizing sexual violence. Mariska Hargitay runs a foundation to support victims of sexual abuse, for Christ's sake. When I wrote about SVU before, I heard from a lot of victims who say they find SVU therapeutic.
For his part, Tyson responded to the criticism in an interview with TV Guide, while showrunner Warren Leight responded in a series of tweets last month.
Whether it's an earnest attempt for the ex-champ to further his acting career or mere stunt casting during February sweeps, one thing's for certain: After nearly 30 years, Tyson still gets everybody talking.