Local pair sues ABC's 'The Bachelor' for discrimination

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 5:15pm

Two Nashville men, both former local college football players, say The Bachelor and The Bachelorette “reality” series offered them no level playing field when they tried out for leading roles on the television programs.

In a class-action racial discrimination complaint, plaintiffs Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson claim that ABC, and others associated with two TV shows, intentionally excluded “people of color” from a lead role in the popular The Bachelor and The Bachelorette television series.

The complaint — which one attorney involved called “groundbreaking” in that it appears to be the first discrimination complaint against a “reality” show — was filed Wednesday in U.S. district court in Nashville.

The federal court filing states, “Never, over 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, has either show ever featured a single person of color — whether African-American, Latino, Asian, or any other minority race or ethnicity — in the central role of the “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette.”

Contacted by The City Paper, representatives from ABC deferred to a spokeswoman from Warner Bros. who declined to comment on the complaint.

At a press conference in downtown Nashville, the two men (both Nashville natives) told reporters they felt they’d make suitable singles candidates for the shows, emphasizing their athletic pasts along with successful professional careers. The problem, they said, was that their tryouts didn’t last nearly as long as those of other candidates they’d witnessed.

Claybrooks, who now owns his own barbershop as well as an auto detailing business, played football at Middle Tennessee State University before graduating and playing in the Arena Football League.

Of his audition to be on the show Claybrooks said, “I noticed that the guys in front of me — the white males in front of me — took maybe 45 minutes to an hour, but I went up it took me maybe 15, 20 minutes. They rushed me through. They made me do a 360-degree turn. Once I did that, my interview was over.”

Johnson played football at Tennessee State University and later worked as a substitute teacher and football coach at a Huntsville, Ala., high school. He’s currently trying out as a receiver in the National Football League, according to the complaint.

Johnson said he didn’t even make it that far into the process but that a representative with the network asked him a few brief questions and sent him on his way.

The complaint was filed by noted Nashville civil rights attorney George Barrett along with attorneys Byron Perkins and Cyrus Mehri.

Barrett said given its history with civil rights sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, Nashville made a “great site” to file such a complaint of racial discrimination.

Mehri said an executive producer of the series said minority candidates didn’t come forward to tryout for the shows.

“This [complaint] is about purposeful discrimination,” Mehri added. “How do you explain zero for 23 in the 23 seasons of [these shows]? How do you explain no Hispanic, no Asian-American, no African-American lead roles on this show? They can’t explain it.”

The attorneys said they expect dozens, if not hundreds, of other plaintiffs to join the class-action complaint filed Wednesday. They have yet to disclose a specified amount of punitive damages sought.

Johnson said his experience with the ABC shows is indicative of a greater problem with television programming in general.

“In my opinion, all the shows that people of color do have,” Johnson said, “it’s always something argumentative or something that sheds a bad light. We never get a show that explains and shows that we also do have love and affection toward one another.”

15 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 4/18/12 at 5:46

I loved the days when it was perfectly okay to discriminate against anything and anyone that you felt made you uncomfortable.

By: Rocket99 on 4/19/12 at 7:19

Isn't that how it is now if you're on the Christian right? Sure seems that way.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/19/12 at 11:24

Rocket99......I don't know what a "Christian on the right thinks"

By: DeLaney3840 on 4/19/12 at 11:37

Toby3840
Had trouble understanding the two, could that be why they were not picked? Both shows have had all kinds of people - do not believe they discriminate just depends on your personality.

By: GUARDIAN on 4/19/12 at 11:42

Why don't you'all stick those race cards where the sun never shines. Most of us and I do mean most Americans have had enough. STHU>>>>>GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: nashmusic2244 on 4/19/12 at 1:57

Oh please....what your 4 minutes of fame wasn't enough? Now you want 10 mins of fame in a courtroom?

Get a life dudes!

By: NewYorker1 on 4/19/12 at 4:44

$$$CHA CHING$$$$. Hit them bigots where it really hurts, in their pockets. I hope they walk away with millions. We are tired of being discriminated against.

I hope the two guys laugh all the way to the bank.

By: yogiman on 4/20/12 at 12:26

Let's see now, they both played football. Were they chosen to play football because of their race or because they were good players? I'll bet it was because their coaches thought they were good players.

Let's assume, then, they were both good football players; does that make them good actors. I doubt it. Playing football is not acting. Oh wait, though, some do seem to be acting on the field because they want attention like children.

Did they major in business in college? Where in a business degree did they learn the actors have the right to tell the producers who should play each role in a TV show? That's like telling your boss you know more about his business than he does so you should do it in 'your way of thinking'.

By: Loner on 4/20/12 at 2:13

This topic is now the topic of the day on the Up For Debate thread...I left the following comment there:

By: Loner on 4/20/12 at 2:07

Good morning, Nashville.

Questions of the day: Do the plaintiffs in the federal complaint filed against ABC raise a good point? Are "people of color" poorly represented on "reality" television programs and should those programs be expected to adjust accordingly?

Of all the frivolous lawsuits ever proposed, this one has to be one of the most frivolous ever. This is beyond frivolous...it is ridiculous. ABC should be allowed to decide on what programming it wants to invest its time energy and money into and ABC should be allowed to decide what it wishes not to invest in. It's just that simple.

The lawyer(s) representing the grandstanding plaintiffs should be disbarred for wasting the court's time.

By: Left-of-Local on 4/20/12 at 9:24

While it is laughable that these shows display ANYTHING genuine about love and affection, this certainly sounds like a case with some merit. Nothing is whiter than ABC on television (well, except Fox News). Maybe they are or are not what the show was looking for, but in all that time there certainly could have been some balance found.

This is just the latest ugly truth to be exposed about our country's deep and very prevalent racism. We truly have not made much progress away from it, we just found vast and elaborate ways to disguise it. Luckily, the presence of a black President has made much of this impossible to ignore anymore.

Good for them.

By: RTungsten on 4/20/12 at 1:45

It's because they know their target audience for the shows. That isn't discrimination.

Next thing you know they will sue Gerber because the baby isn't African-America, Asian-American, Africa-Asian-American, or Tiger Wood American.

This case will amount to nothing.

By: wasaw on 4/21/12 at 3:55

If you've lived in Nashville for very long, you already know that George Barrett is well known locally as the former lap dog of Richard Fulton. Someone, a way back, convinced George that his path to heaven was by way of the "civil rights" movement. No one has told George that once we give them housing, healthcare, and food, they were really supposed to start finding their on way. These two black guys can't earn their way on the "Bachelor" show so they're trying to get there the same way their predecessors did. LITIGATION.

Do you reckon that George would represent any white who was refused to compete in the "Miss Black USA" pageant, "Miss Black America" pageant, or how 'bout "Black History Month", "Black Friday", the "Black Book", "Black Business Association", "The Congressional Black Caucus", "National Association of Black Journalist", "Black Family Network", "Black Talk Radio Network", "National Black Chamber of Commerce", "Black Student Fund", "Black Entertainment Network", "National Black Nurses Association", "100 Black Men of America", "National Black Arts Festival". Assoc. of Black Cardiologists", "United Negro College Fund". And lastly, “Black & Decker". LOL!!

The fact that George and his cohorts are wasting the time of the courts on this frivolous suit shows that George is growing old, at a much faster rate than we imagined. Poor George loses another one. I'm still looking for one’s constitutional right to compete in a reality show.

OK, here's the truth, all joking aside. The producers do not want back men in the show. Why? Because all the beautiful contestants, who bring in the American audience, are beautiful white women. Most would not throw themselves at the men, if the man was black. A few would, but not enough to keep the TV audience watching. In fact, if the producers put a black man in the show, the ratings would fall so low; the show would go off the air, if for no other reason, for lack of sponsors. Now, this is why the government will not decide if a black man will be put on the show. The American audience will decide if such a show would stay on the air.

By: GUARDIAN on 4/23/12 at 10:55

WASAW.... you hit that one out of the park and out of the city. Thank you for the truth. GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: Loner on 4/23/12 at 2:03

ABC should just re-name the show: The Caucasian Bachelor & The Caucasian Bachelorette.

ABC might try spin-offs: The Black Bachelor and The Black Bachelorette ...The Hispanic Bachelor and The Hispanic Bachelorette....The Octoroon Bachelor and the Octoroon Bachelorette....et cetera.

Try viewing similar dating shows on the Spanish channels...inter-racial pairing is routine there. Seems like the Spanish-speaking nations in the New World are a lot more tolerant of racial mixing than we are here in the USA.

By: parnell3rd on 4/23/12 at 10:23

More news that does not matter!