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.
The performance was widely praised on social media during the show on September 5 but by September 11 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 spokesman 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.”
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.”