Its happening! Matt James is making history as ABC’s first Black Bachelor. This comes after a popular petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on “The Bachelor.” Matt will be the star of the 25th season of “The Bachelor.”
He was previously set to be a contestant on Clare’s season of The Bachelorette before production was shutdown in March and postponed indefinitely due to Coronavirus. Bachelor Nation also knows James as the best friend, roommate and business partner to fan-favorite Tyler Cameron.
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Matt is a North Carolina native who played football at Wake Forest, had a short run in the NFL and now lives in New York City where he and Cameron run ABC Food Tours, an organization that offers kids from underserved communities the opportunity to explore the city through food, exercise and mental and physical wellness. He is the first Bachelor since 2008’s Matt Grant to be cast as the lead without having appeared as a contestant on The Bachelorette.
“Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement. “When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.”
“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Karey added.
A Change.org petition urging ABC to address a lack of diversity on the reality dating franchise, which includes “The Bachelor” and its lead spinoff, “The Bachelorette,” garnered the support of thousands, including franchise alums.
The petition stated that “ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years. During that time they’ve cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable.”
Attorney Rachel Lindsay was the first African-American lead of the franchise as “The Bachelorette” during Season 13 of the dating series. She retweeted a call to support the diversity campaign launched by writer and franchise superfan Brett S. Vergara earlier this week.
The discussion about a lack of inclusion in the franchise not a new one. In 2012, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a class action lawsuit alleging that ABC was intentionally excluding people of color from leading the show after they both applied to be “The Bachelor” in 2011. That suit was dismissed.
Rachel said during an interview with “AfterBuzz” last week that she views “The Bachelor’s” diversity issues as “embarrassing” and has considered cutting ties with the franchise.
Karey Burke said that the network is committed to diversity. “This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise,” she said. “We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”