When it was announced that the controversial sports star had been cast in an episode of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' there was an almost immediate upswell of online outrage.
The show itself deals specifically with the investigation and prosecution of sexual offenses, bringing into question whether casting a convicted rapist and celebrity was simply a ratings stunt by producers.
“As soon as I saw it [in a news report], I just saw red,” Marcie Kaveney, a rape survivor now working as a rape crisis advocate, told The Washington Post.
“A lot of survivors consider ‘SVU’ to be Their Show, because it’s about victims, about helping victims and getting justice for victims,” she said. “We’ve taken to the show and consider it ours.”
In response to the casting Kaveney started a petition at Change.org which asked the show's producers and NBC to reconsider the casting decision saying "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 now has over 6000 signatures with many adding their voice to the outrage:
"What the f**k is wrong with SVU? This fool committed rape and hasn't even taken responsibility," Byron Hill of Dallas, Texas railed, highlighting Tyson's lack of public contrition for his crimes.
"Mike Tyson is a CONVICTED RAPIST. His casting on SVU is a travesty and goes against everything SVU stands for... PLEASE recast this role - there are so many talented African Americans who can play this role! Why Mike Tyson? He isn't even an actor! He's a rapist!" angry fan Josephine Bautista from the Philippines complained.
"This is a media trick to polish his image. Mike Tyson wants us to believe HE is a victim of a difficult childhood? Give me a break!" said David Stout of Stevensville, Montana.
Tyson's rape conviction dates back to July 1991 when he was arrested and charged with raping Desiree Washington, an 18-year-old Miss Black America pageant competitor. The arrest led to a 6 year jail sentence, of which Tyson served 3 years.
In his biography of the boxer, former light-heavyweight champion and former friend José Torres quotes Tyson as saying, "I like to hurt women when I make love to them. I like to hear them scream with pain, to see them bleed."
Torres also quoted as saying of his domestic abuse of ex-wife Robin Givens, "She really offended me and I went BAM. She flew backwards, hitting every wall in the apartment ... That was the best punch I've ever thrown in my entire life."
One of the show's producers, Warren Leight, responded to the criticism on Twitter by saying, "While in no way excusing his past actions, it's worth noting [Tyson] was convicted over 20 years ago, and served his time. Our intent, as always, is to provoke discussion and awareness."
"He only served 3 of his 6 years for RAPE,” Kaveney tweeted in response "it doesn’t matter how long ago he was convicted. A rape is a rape."
For his part when the role was announced Tyson tweeted "Can't tell you how many times I've watched SVU marathons. This is my dream job," leaving many to wonder whether he was suffering a profound lack of self-awareness given his own conviction.
The role won't be Tyson's first appearance on screen but it could well be his last if the controversy continues to grow. He has previously played himself in 'The Hangover' series of films, as well as other parts in smaller budget productions.