It seems some ‘Bachelor’ hopefuls are fed up with the show’s choices for the starring role.
On Wednesday, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville against ABC and the popular shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette."
The lawsuit claims the shows engaged in patterns of racial discrimination because certain ethnic groups were blocked from having the chance to participate in leading roles.
While only Claybrooks and Johnson were named in the suit, it was filed on behalf of all other people of color who’ve attempted to land “the role of the 'Bachelor' or 'Bachelorette' but [have] been denied the equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race.”
The complaint goes on to say that after 10 years of being on the air, neither “The Bachelor” nor “The Bachelorette" has featured “a single person of color – whether African-American, Latino, Asian, or any other minority race or ethnicity — in the central role."
“In 16 seasons of 'The Bachelor' and 7 seasons of 'The Bachelorette,' every person featured in the lead role on either show has been white.”
One of the defendants described his experience last August at a casting call 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."
The two men’s 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.
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.
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 is unappealing to the shows' audience."
"The refusal to hire minority applicants is a conscious attempt to minimize the risk of alienating their majority-white viewership and the advertisers targeting that viewership," the lawsuit says. "Nevertheless, such discrimination is impermissible under federal law."
Critics have said the shows do not have diverse leading men and women because a segment of Americans aren't ready to see interracial courting and romance on primetime television. Creator Fleiss has publicly said that the shows' producers have tried to be more inclusive, but for whatever reason, minorities aren't applying.
Johnson, a 26-year-old teacher who was just hired to coach high school football, said at a news conference that when he went to the casting call, he was stopped immediately by a show representative and asked what he was doing at the hotel where the men were applying for the lead role.
He said he was only given the opportunity to hand in some materials, even as white applicants appeared to be given further consideration at the hotel.
Both men said they have been fans of the show and that, unlike online dating, saw it as an opportunity to communicate with women face to face.
The lawsuit claims that the shows and the entertainment companies are violating a provision of the 1866 Civil Rights Act that bars businesses from refusing to contract with others because of their race and a California law that prohibits racial discrimination.
The two men are asking the federal court to order the companies to consider people of color as finalists for the leading role in the TV shows. They are also asking that the suit be certified class-action so others could join the litigation.
With Reporting by the Associated Press.