Two Nashville residents formally announced their class action lawsuit against the American Broadcasting Corporation's television programs The Bachelor and The Bacherlorette today, alleging that the objectively abysmal network shows avoid casting people of color.
From the downtown offices of Barrett Johnston, LLC, the plaintiffs — Nathaniel Claybrooks, an American Football League player, and Christopher Johnson, an aspiring NFL player — held a press conference with counsel this afternoon in which they delineated their charges. Chief among them: Out of a combined 23 seasons, not one episode has featured a person of color in either of the shows' lead roles.
"Any job opportunity you are given, you always look for equal opportunity," Johnson said. "When you feel you are treated unfair and unjust, you have to speak out. ... We all need a voice, and in those shows, we haven't had that opportunity."
Attorneys for the men seek compensatory damages for what they allege is a set of policies and practices that result in the exclusion of non-whites (African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, etc.) from being seriously considered for the shows' central roles. The net affect, they argue, is that the practices violate elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pertaining to the right of minorities to make and enforce contracts equal to whites, and that the absence of people of color on the programs suggests "to both white viewers and viewers of color, that interracial or non-white relationships are undesirable or unworthy of the nationally broadcasted platform of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette."
Specifically targeted is Michael Fleiss, creator of Bachelor-themed programming and president of Next Entertainment, which produces the shows.
According to Johnson and his attorneys, his entire casting call process lasted "a minute, at most" before he was routinely dismissed.
The attorneys plan to subpoena the producers of the show to discern the nature of these practices and determine if what happened to Claybrooks and Johnson is systemic. To that end, they anticipate the ongoing suit to bring more people forward who may have experienced similar treatment at the hands of ABC.
Pith reached out to the American Broadcasting Corporation for comment, and was redirected to a public relations flack for Warner Bros., who has not responded as of posting time.
A more detailed list of complaints (particularly Johnson's alleged treatment), after the jump.
From the suit [PDF], field today in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee:
In 2011, Mr. Johnson completed the paper application and questionnaire to become the next Bachelor, and, in compliance with the application’s instructions, had professional pictures taken of himself to include with the application.
Shortly after completing the application and questionnaire, Mr. Johnson went to a hotel in the Brentwood/Franklin neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee where Defendants were holding a casting call. He went to submit his application in person and complete any other prerequisites—such as an interview—to be considered a candidate for the next Bachelor.
When Mr. Johnson walked into the hotel lobby, he was immediately stopped by one of Defendants’ employees who asked why Mr. Johnson was there. Mr. Johnson stated to the employee, who was white, that he had the necessary materials and had come to apply for The Bachelor. The white employee stated that he would take Mr. Johnson’s application materials and be sure to pass them on to the show’s casting directors.
As Mr. Johnson handed the white employee his application materials, he noticed several other persons who appeared to be hopeful Bachelor applicants walking past him and the white employee and proceeding into the hotel. None of the other potential applicants was stopped by any of Defendants’ employees.
Mr. Johnson handed the white employee his application and pictures. The employee did not give Mr. Johnson any further instructions. Mr. Johnson proceeded to turn around and leave the hotel. He was never contacted by Defendants regarding his application.
Mr. Johnson’s attempt to apply for the Bachelor was cut short by Defendants’ employee. He was denied the same opportunity to become the next Bachelor as other non-black applicants.
The remainder of the report is an exhaustingly detailed summation of the practices of various other reality television shows, which is both fascinating and mind-numbing.
Both men (in addition to any other parties who sign onto the suit in the future) seek unspecified punitive damages, as well as pre- and post-trial judgment interest and compensation for attorneys' fees.