ITV has praised Diversity for the group’s “authentic, heartfelt” performance on Britain’s Got Talent, which was inspired by Black Lives Matter and has since been the subject of thousands of complaints to the broadcasting watchdog.
The routine saw a white police officer kneel on star Ashley Banjo, echoing the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, while other dancers performed with police riot shields.
As Banjo lay on the floor while the police officer handcuffed him, other dancers crowded around with smartphones as if to film and take photos of the incident.
The routine also saw the dance troupe take a knee, in protest against racism and police brutality.
In a video message on Instagram, Banjo said that the group found the positive reaction – “hundreds of thousands of messages, comments, DMs, and just interactions in the street” – overwhelming.
While “the headlines have been about the complaints and the negativity … the negativity is the minority,” said the Britain’s Got Talent judge, who is standing in for Simon Cowell.
“The positive response has been huge. So thank you so much to everyone who has supported, shown love, and stood by what we did.”
And he added: “We’re feeling positive, happy … proud.
“We stand by every single decision we made with that performance…. I’m proud.”
The “negativity” included “racial abuse” and “threats”, he said, adding: “That reaction shows exactly why this performance was needed … Racism is very real. I knew it before and I definitely know it now.”
He said the “performance was a round-up of an extraordinary year”.
“Everything from lockdown to Covid-19, to the incredible NHS to the spotlight that’s been shone on racism. Everything that happened with George Floyd in America, the protests, the riots – ultimately culminating in the idea of unity, hope, finding a cure.”
The performance was widely praised on social media during the show on 5 September but by 11 September there had been 15,500 complaints to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
Latest reports suggest this number has since risen to more than 20,000.
An ITV spokesperson said: “Britain’s Got Talent has always been an inclusive show, which showcases diversity and supports strong storytelling in all forms and ITV stands behind the decision to broadcast Diversity’s performance on BGT.
“Ashley and the group are a great example of the talent, creativity and diversity of modern Britain and their performance was an authentic, heartfelt response to many of the issues and events which have affected society in 2020.”Support us and go ad-free
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.