UPDATE: Warner Horizon, which produces The Bachelor franchise, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit.

This complaint is baseless and without merit. In fact, 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.

PREVIOUS: Football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson filed a class-action lawsuit today in federal court in Nashville against The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for racial discrimination. According to the suit (read it here exclusively), “over the course of 23 seasons, not one time has the show’s eclectic mix ever included a Bachelor or Bachelorette who is a person of color.” Seeking unstated damages and fees, the 24-page filing also asks the court “that an injunction be issued requiring Defendants to consider persons of color as finalists for the role of the Bachelor and the Bachelorette.”

Bachelor executive producer and Bachelorette creator Michael Fleiss, ABC, Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, and NZK Productions are all named as defendants. The Bachelor has been on the air since 2002, The Bachelorette has been on since 2003.

Claybrooks and Johnson, both black, say they unsuccessfully auditioned for The Bachelor. “Mr. Claybrooks’ interview lasted for a much shorter time than the interviews with white applicants who went before him,” the suit alleges. “Mr. Claybrooks felt that he was being rushed through the process and was not given the same opportunity as his white counterparts.” The suit says Claybrooks, who auditioned at Nashville’s Indigo Hotel in 2011, never heard back from Bachelor producers.

A trio of law firms — Barrett Johnston, Mehri & Skalet and Perkins-Law — represents the duo. Claybrooks currently plays for the minor-league Nashville Storm, and Johnson was a wide receiver at Tennessee State and says he is preparing to try out for the NFL. The plaintiffs and their attorneys are expected to revel more details of the suit and their motivation in filing it at a press conference later today.

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