NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two black men are taking "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" to court with a lawsuit that claims the reality shows are blocking contestants of color from starring roles.
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville Wednesday against the popular TV shows claiming they are engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination that intentionally excludes people of color. The Nashville men said at a casting call in August that they were given scant consideration compared to white men seeking a leading role for "The Bachelor."
Claybrooks said white applicants were given far more time and consideration during the interview process.
"I only wanted a fair shot at the part," said the soft-spoken Claybrooks, a 39-year-old college graduate and electric company meter reader who owns several small businesses. "Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn't possible. I never even had a chance."
Their attorneys said it is the first racial discrimination lawsuit filed against a reality show. It does not ask for a specific dollar amount of damages, but it does propose to make major changes in how people are seen on TV.
The two men say that after 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," neither show has featured a single person of color in a central role. The reality show features about 25 prospective brides competing for the heart of a single guy. The gender roles reverse in its sister show, "The Bachelorette."
Both shows have come under fire in recent years for not having enough diversity.
The lawsuit names Michael Fleiss, the creator of the shows, as well as ABC, Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment and NZK Productions. Calls and emails to Fleiss' publicist and an email to an ABC publicist were not immediately returned.
Warner Horizon Television released a statement late Wednesday evening saying the complaint is baseless and without merit.
"We have had various participants of color throughout the series' history, and the producers have been consistently — and publicly — vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette,'" the statement reads.
The lawsuit claims that white applicants are featured prominently because of a calculation that "minorities in lead roles and interracial dating in unappealing to the shows' audience."