Two African-American football players from Nashville are set to file a discrimination lawsuit Wednesday against producers of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette reality show franchise, according to reports.
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In the expected class action lawsuit, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson are claiming that in the show’s 10 years history all persons of color have been denied equal opportunity in the casting of the show.
The duo plans to hold a press conference Wednesday to further discuss the lawsuit which will go after ABC television, Bachelor executive producer Mike Fleiss, and the show’s production companies Warner Horizon television, Next Entertainment, and NZK Productions.
A statement regarding the lawsuit said:
“Over a combined total of 23 seasons, neither show has ever had a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color.”
Michael Fleiss, the executive producer of the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” franchises, was asked by Entertainment Weekly last year if the shows would ever feature someone who wasn’t white.
At that time he replied:
“I think Ashley (the 2011 Bachelorette) is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.”
The lawsuit represents uncharted territory, according to legal experts. Andrew H. Friedman of Helger & Friedman LLP told Entertainment Weekly that Claybrooks, Johnson and their attorneys may be better protected if they file the lawsuit in California rather than in Tennessee.
In California, the case could fall under an anti-discrimination law called the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
“They would definitely have much more legal protection in California than they would in Tennessee… [the law could possibly cover] punitive damages if the decision to exclude African-Americans were made at a high enough level of the production company.”
Recently, Lamar Hurd is attempting to convince Bachelor producers that he’d be perfect for the show by initiating his own online campaign to get himself casted.
Perhaps we’ll see a black contestant on the show soon after all. If not, the lawsuit and the accompanying bad press may force Bachelor producers to really work harder to correct their diversity record and pay for their alleged oversight.
Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog VeryArtistical.com.