10 Years, 23 Seasons, 0 Stars of Color: 'Bachelor' Franchise to be Sued for Racial Discrimination
10 Years, 23 Seasons, 0 Stars of Color: 'Bachelor' Franchise to be Sued for Racial Discrimination
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Nashville football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson are leading a class-action lawsuit against ABC's The Bachelor franchise, claiming that the show's casting process, which has led to zero stars of color amongst its ten years and 23 seasons on the air, constitutes racial discrimination.

A source tells TMZ that Claybrooks, a linebacker for the Nashville Storm, and Johnson, a former wide receiver at Tennessee State, attended a hotel casting meeting for the next season of The Bachelor. Johnson claims that when he arrived, a producer asked him what he was doing there, and both men say that they were taken to the side of the room and left out of the normal audition process -- treatment they believe was because of their race.

Attorneys for Claybrooks and Johnson will file the complaint in federal court on Wednesday morning against ABC production companies Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, NZK Productions and Bachelor executive producer Mike Fleiss.

This is far from the first time that The Bachelor has come up against accusations of discrimination. (A quick Google search for "The Bachelor" + "racist" reveals several articles on the subject.) While scattered contestants of color have appeared over the years, as a representative for Claybrooks and Johnson told Wetpaint, "in 23 seasons, there has never been a person of color as the lead role on either show."

Just over a year ago, Entertainment Weekly asked Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss if we'd ever seen a Bachelor or Bachelorette who wasn't white, to which Fleiss answered:

"I think Ashley 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."

Yes, Fleiss blames the potential contestants of color for not "coming forward." (And notably refers to casting African-American "chicks" as an obligation to "wedge" them in, for appearance's sake.) But Claybrooks and Johnson claim that they did come forward. And were turned away.

If you're curious, in the year since Fleiss's claim that his show wants to cast for ethnic diversity, the 2011 cast of The Bachelorette included not a single person of color, and The Bachelor's most diverse cast members in 2012 were a possibly Latina contestant named Dianna, who was eliminated the first night, and a redhead.

This LA Times post in response to Fleiss's comments at the time -- and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan's response, calling The Bachelor's casting processes "straight up racism" -- reports that "even though ABC executives maintained two years ago that the show was "exploring" the possibilities of casting a person of color in the pivotal role, insiders said producers had little interest in pursuing a more diverse cast, and were unwilling to vary the chemistry of a hugely popular series and wary of a potential controversy stemming from an interracial romance."

And so an attempt to avoid a "potential" controversy may have just sparked a real one.

(Image courtesy of ABC)