Ashley Banjo entered UK's Got Talent studio for Elton John's hit I'm Still Standing on a defiant show tonight – amid anger over his Black Lives Matter dance routine that sparked 15,000 Ofcom complaints.
The 31-year-old dancer appeared to hit back on criticism of the controversial diversity performance when stepping on stage alongside David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon in the second semifinals of the ITV talent show.
Banjo's dance troupe Diversity, which won the UK's third series of Got Talent in 2009, ran a routine last weekend narrating the death of George Floyd, who was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for eight minutes in May .
Mr. Floyd gasped "I can't breathe" when he was held back by Chauvin, and his death sparked worldwide outrage and explosive protests, led by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The performance has so far sparked 15,500 complaints with media watchman Ofcom, with critics claiming the dance politicized the entertainment show. One Twitter user insisted, "They are a dance group, not a political movement."
“I'm Still Standing!”: BGT Judge Ashley Banjo defiantly stepped into Elton John's hit on the show on Saturday as Ofcom's complaints about BLM's diversity routine soared to 15,500
Banjo's dance troupe Diversity, which won the UK's third series of Got Talent in 2009, ran a routine last weekend narrating the death of George Floyd, who was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes in May
The 31-year-old dancer appeared to beat back criticism of the controversial diversity performance when stepping onto the stage alongside David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon in the ITV talent show's second semifinals
As Banjo talked about the routine tonight, he told co-hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly that he both loved performing on the show and judging after they asked him how he was after his first week feel in the panel.
He said, “I loved it, I loved standing on that side of the desk, but you took me up there too. So it's my first week that I can sit back and enjoy the show. & # 39;
An Ofcom spokesman confirmed to MailOnline on Friday afternoon that BGT had received 15,500 complaints so far. On Monday the number was 1,121.
The representative added: "We are looking into the complaints against our broadcasting rules but have yet to decide whether or not to conduct an investigation."
Social media users took note of BGT's use of the Elton John classic, although the episode was filmed prior to the outrage over diversity's routine. One viewer wrote: “The support of Ashley Banjo through Got Talent in the UK. Absolutely the best. & # 39;
Another said: & # 39; Ashley Banjo – so pleased to see him back at BGT, still smiling & # 39;
& # 39; Ashley Banjo is still standing. Love it! & # 39; added a third.
Others commented on moderators Ant and Dec's monologue about the dancer's performance at the start of the show. One Twitter user wrote: "The guys who made @AshleyBanjo great at the start of the show speak volumes, bloody brilliant, that was for all haters."
However, some critics asked why Banjo didn't apologize for the routine that polarized viewers last Saturday.
"Not even an apology from Banjo for last week's fiasco about a 'dance' routine that mislead all cops as racists," said one user. "Not setting a good example to young people … not a very positive message."
Defiant: After making his way onto the stage, Banjo happily told co-hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly that he loved both appearing and judging on the show last week
Divisive: The routine of Diversity, which told of the murder of the unarmed black George Floyd in May, had already polarized fans of the talent show on Saturday night because of their political stance
Social media users were split tonight as they responded to Ashley Banjo's return to the UK's Got Talent chair
The spate of Ofcom complaints came amid reports that Judges David Walliams and Alesha Dixon had a war of words after the singer told him his Little Britain antics were "inappropriate".
The 41-year-old TV star reportedly jokingly made the comments, but according to Sun, the 49-year-old was upset and left the studio as soon as filming was over.
David's old Little Britain characters included black woman Desiree DeVere and bearded transvestite Emily Howard.
The spit reportedly started during the show's deliberation, and a source revealed, "When the artist who supported Alesha got through, she basically reached out to David and said, 'Well, this pays off for all of your inappropriate antics Little Britain out. "
& # 39; It was pretty bold, although Alesha later insisted that she was just kidding. But David was stunned. Obviously he's not racist or homophobic or in the slightest phobic – he was upset.
"Words were exchanged and the rest of the filming was a bit of a hassle."
New figures: An Ofcom spokesman confirmed to MailOnline on Friday afternoon that British company Got Talent has received 15,500 complaints so far. On Monday the number was 1,121
Awks! The OfCom complaints come after Judges David Walliams and Alesha Dixon waged a war of words after the singer told him his Little Britain antics were "inappropriate".
Allegations: The TV star reportedly made the comments jokingly, but according to Sun David, 49, he was upset and left the studio as soon as filming was over
Despite the awkward exchanges, it was claimed that neither party held a grudge and that they remain friends.
A source revealed that Alesha insisted that her comments on David were only made as a joke.
MailOnline contacted representatives from David, Alesha and BGT at the time.
In June, David Walliams and his Little Britain co-star Matt Lucas apologized for using Blackface after the series was removed from streaming services.
In a joint statement, the couple insisted it was "wrong" to portray characters of other races, but reiterated that they have apologized for it in the past.
It comes after singer Dixon told critics to "kiss my black a **" when she threw her support behind Got Talent co-judge Banjo in the wake of the performance controversy.
The singer plunged into the ongoing battle over the politicization of the ITV1 talent series when Banjo shared a post on Instagram from a critic asking him to keep politics out of the entertainment after the BLM-inspired dance aired on BGT.
Dixon commented on an Instagram post from an angry social media user who said, "We, the great British public, will only support you if you keep us entertained and not say anything about racism."
The full post – which also referred to boxer Anthony Joshua and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – read: “Dear Joshua, Hamilton, Banjo and all other black public figures.
Supportive: The new character comes after Alesha Dixon told critics to "kiss my black a **" when she threw her support behind British Got Talent co-judge Ashley
Appeal: Ashley posted a comment from a troll referring to him, Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton, saying they shouldn't say anything about racism.
Answer: Ashley wrote back: & # 39; 1. They do not represent or speak for the broad British public. 2. Silence was and never will be an option. 3. Change is inevitable … get used to it & # 39;
Support: The 41-year-old singer waded into the running row when the 31-year-old Banjo shared a review on Instagram asking him to keep politics out of the conversation
“We, the great British public, will only support you if you entertain us and say nothing about racism. Thank you for your understanding. & # 39;
Banjo shared a screenshot of a message posted by a reviewer on his Instagram, saying in the headline: & # 39; 1. They do not represent or speak for the broad British public.
& # 39; 2. Silence was and never will be an option. 3. Change is inevitable … Get used to it. & # 39;
Alesha wasn't the only celebrity throwing their support behind Ashley, as British Got Talent judge Amanda Holden commented with a heart emoji.
JLS star Aston Merrygold added, “It is like that, yes! I think it's time to speak louder for the people who can't quite hear! & # 39;
Banjo's wife, Francesca, used social media to share her own thoughts about the negative reaction of some viewers. She said the answer is not to be afraid of problems.
Sharing clips from the performance, she wrote, & # 39; On Saturday, @ashleybanjogram and @diversityofficial performed this routine on @bgt, 11 years after winning the show. To call this a "dance routine" is an understatement, to say the least.
& # 39; This piece was an interpretation of the unprecedented events of 2020, from Covid 19 to BLM, from clapping for caregivers as a nation to coming together in our own families and finding the light in the darkest time.
"Some may find this uncomfortable, they may find it inappropriate, but shying away from problems will not bring about the long overdue change."
She added, “When I saw this, I couldn't be more proud of my husband.
Encouragement: Alesha wasn't the only celebrity tossed their support behind Ashley, as Amanda Holden, Ashley's brother Jordan, Judi Love and Aston Merrygold also commented on
Reaction: Ashley's wife, Francesca, also used social media to share her own thoughts about the negative reaction of some viewers. She said the answer is not to be afraid of problems
Proud woman: Francesca wrote: "Some may find this uncomfortable, they may find it inappropriate, but shying away from problems will not bring about the long overdue change."
Rose and Micah will see this and when they are old enough to understand they will be proud that their father created something so poignant and used his voice to stand up for what is right. We are a race, humanity. & # 39;
On Thursday, diversity's performance became the second most complained TV moment in the past 10 years.
Ofcom complaints topped 10,000, taking Kim Woodburn / Coleen Nolan's argument held at Loose Women in 2018 out of second place with just 7,912 complaints.
The first remains Celebrity Big Brother's "Punchgate" – also in 2018 – which Roxanne Pallett falsely accused Ryan Thomas of beating her. This resulted in 25,327 complaints.
His brother and co-star Jordan Banjo got weepy talking about the "terrible" news the group received on his KISS radio show on Wednesday.
Speaking about the Ofcom complaints and "terrible" news the group of trolls had received, Jordan fought back tears with co-dancer Perri Kiely on his KISS radio show on Wednesday.
Perri first said: & # 39;On Saturday we performed with Diversity at Britain & # 39; s Got Talent.
"Our performance encompassed the events of this year and the appalling messages that need to be spoken about."
Jordan added, “Of course you get some reviews, but it usually focuses on the dance. But this one was different, it was really important, it was special to us.
Current: The routine of Diversity, which told of the murder of the unarmed black man George Floyd in May, had polarized fans on Saturday night due to their openly political stance
"We're all about positivity and love, and we got so much positivity and love back from this one."
Jordan said the group was "bombarded" with messages, he continued: "Terrible stuff about us, about our families, about how diverse the diversity is even now because there are only five whites in it."
The star's voice then broke as he repulsed tears and added, “I can't speak for anyone, it's sad, it's sad, really.
"I'm afraid and worried when I say something like Black Lives Matter, when that's all we want, love and certainty. Nobody just says Black Lives Matter."
Perri, 24, asked a troll to "dispose of" himself after attacking the group on Twitter.
He said, "Are you," followed by a trash can and added, "I can't believe the answers to that … apparently these people are adults!? Go and educate yourself."
It comes after lead dancer, choreographer and guest judge Ashley defended his group's performance, calling it "his art" in an earlier statement on Instagram.
He wrote: “Art: The expression or application of human creative abilities and imagination, typically in visual form, that produces works that are valued primarily for their beauty or emotional power. My truth, my platform, my art.
"I've always tried not only to entertain, but also to inspire … That will never change."
Ashley then referred to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. as he revealed that he was both "grateful" and "overwhelmed" with the support.
He continued, "Our lives begin to end the day we keep silent about important things" – Martin Luther King Jr.
& # 39; I am so grateful and overwhelmed by all of the love and support, but also by the amount of conversation that this performance had. 2020 was such a historic year.
"One day we will look back and find that this was the beginning of a real change … We send nothing but love and positivity to everyone who reads this #wearediversity."
Ashley's post was flooded with messages of support from fellow dancers and celebrities.
His brother Jordan, 27, said, "Proud." Perri, 24, wrote, "No, I'm so gassed to be a part of it."
Ashley Roberts, 38, said, "Loved that performance!" Neil Jones, 38, added, "For me, it was powerful."
Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired, "So much to say … But I'll just let the performance do the talking. Thousands of messages of love and support – Thank you.
& # 39; For the thousands of messages of hate and ignorance – thank you. They mark exactly what needs to be changed. I just send love to all of you #Diversity. & # 39;
Support: Ashley's post has been flooded with messages of support from fellow dancers and celebrities
Statement: Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just a few hours after the performance was broadcast, "So much to say … But I'll just let the performance talk …"
Former British Got Talent Champion opened the performance on Saturday by reciting a viral poem, The Great Realization, by singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality.
During their performance, the group also illustrated the death of Floyd, who lost his life after police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.
The routine received mixed responses from the audience, with some calling the display a "political statement" and others calling the dance "powerful".
One user wrote: & # 39; Shame! Make political statements elsewhere, not on a family TV show. & # 39;
Routine: Former British Got Talent champions opened the performance on Saturday with a viral poem, The Great Realization by singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and the brutality of the police
While another commented: & # 39; Wrong time and place. BGT should be a nice entertainment show, not political. I enjoyed the show very much and forgot about the world's problems and then a bang!
"So disappointed even though AB was a great judge and his performance wasn't needed."
Another person added, “I had enjoyed it and turned it off by then. It's a talent show, not a political show. & # 39;
Meanwhile, another fan wrote: “So disappointed that this was a political achievement. I didn't expect it at BGT. Not the right performance. & # 39;
During their performance, the dance troupe, dressed in riot gear, recited a viral poem about the BLM movement before a Policemen put a hand over Banjo's throat as he lay on the floor to the song I Can & # 39; t Breathe.
After the performance, Banjo said to MailOnline, & # 39; This performance is very special to me and the rest of Diversity.
& # 39; 2020 was an incredible moment in history for both positive and negative reasons.
& # 39; We wanted to use the platform we were given to have our voices heard, express how we felt through the events of this year and think about how we might look back on them in the future … We call it Review 2020. & # 39;
Other viewers praised the group and the BGT bosses for presenting the problem.
One wrote: “The television and dance group Diversity ran a prime-time Saturday night routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in which a cop kneeled on the neck of member Ashley & # 39; s Banjo. Powerful. & # 39;
Another viewer added, “What an incredible feat of diversity – a really bold and meaningful way to get the message out! I am very happy that the team is now so diverse! Awesome! & # 39;
Another fan commented: & # 39; Damn it! The diversity on BGT last night was the best I have ever seen, was so moving and conveyed their story brilliantly. Brought a tear to the eye! Great! & # 39;
Speaking: Some viewers used social media to argue that the performance was a political statement not intended for a family show
Another wrote: & # 39; Wow @Diversity_Tweet just wow! Such a powerful and important message that has been made so perfectly! & # 39;
While another added: & # 39; This feat by @Diversity_Tweet was absolutely amazingly well done, very powerful @AshleyBanjo is phenomenal at putting routines together. & # 39;
After Floyd's death earlier this year, thousands took to the streets around the world demanding that the officers involved be arrested for their crime.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with second degree murder in June, while officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were also charged with complicity in second degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
During Saturday's show, Ashley stood up for Simon Cowell after missing the semi-finals due to a back injury.
Cowell was forced to retire after breaking his back in a bicycle accident and recovering from a six-hour home operation.
The music mogul has insisted that the producers made the show the best they could, despite the fact that there is now social distancing – and has even hinted that he will actually appear in the live finale in October despite being on bed rest.
This year marks the first time the semi-finals have been recorded in BGT history and changes have also been made to the way acts will advance to the finals.
There are eight contestants in each semifinal, and the judges select one act. The second finalist will then be selected by public vote when the episode airs.
With safety concerns at the fore, some acts will participate remotely via video link while others will perform in the television studio. The reactions of the virtual audience are then transmitted to the studio on a giant screen.
The series will then culminate with the Live Finale in October, where one act triumphs as Britain's Got Talent 2020 champion and wins the life-changing award of £ 250,000 and a coveted role on The Royal Variety Performance.
Breathtaking: Meanwhile, other British Got Talent fans hailed the performance as "powerful" and "amazing".