Law & Order: Special Victims Unit creator Dick Wolf has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the casting of Mike Tyson in an episode of the hit crime drama series.
The former boxer has landed a cameo role playing a murderer with a murky past, but the casting has infuriated campaigners against sexual violence owing to Tyson's 1992 conviction for rape.
A petition was set up on the Change.org website urging bosses at the show and American network NBC to drop Tyson from the episode and it has attracted the support of more than 6300 people.
However, Wolf has spoken out to praise the show, calling the episode, Monster's Legacy, one of the series' strongest in years.
In a note accompanying screeners for the episode, he writes: "It (the episode) focuses on what can happen when there is an emotionally charged rush to judgment and it is, in my opinion, one of our strongest episodes in the last five years."
Tyson's TV appearance was originally scheduled for broadcast in the US on February 13, but it has since been moved forward to Wednesday, February 6, amid speculation that the shift occurred to prevent the episode airing on the eve of One Billion Rising, a global event supporting survivors of rape and abuse.