ABC Casts First Black ‘Bachelor’ After Diversity Backlash

Matt James The Bachelor (Credit: ABC)

ABC has cast an African American “Bachelor” for the first time in the show’s history.

Matt James was named as lead on the upcoming 25th season of The Bachelor, the network announced Friday morning.

“It’s official… your next Bachelor is @mattjames919!” the official Bachelor Twitter account posted.

James, 28, was a contestant on Season 16 of The Bachelorette. According to ABC, he is an entrepreneur and a community organization founder.

“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 Friday. “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.”

Burke said the network will continue to incorporate more diversity into the franchise.

“This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise,” Burke continued. “We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

The decision to cast James came after more than 50,000 people signed a petition that urged ABC to address the lack of diversity on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

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.”

The petition gained support from thousands of fans and show viewers, and even franchise alums themselves.

Former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay, the first black woman lead on the spinoff, has weighed in on the controversy numerous times. Earlier this week, she wrote a lengthy blog post that called for the franchise to address its lack of diversity. As Urban Hollywood 411 previously reported, Lindsay threatened to distance herself from the franchise if it didn’t make changes.

“If changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it,” Lindsay wrote. “I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of color. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover.”