History is being made, rose lovers. On June 12, 2020, ABC announced Matt James as not only the next Bachelor, but the first Black male lead in franchise history. Following the show's longstanding failure to diversify, the announcement has come amid global outrage regarding racial inequality.
The 28-year-old Bachelor was previously slated to be a contestant on Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of The Bachelorette before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. James is well-known by Bachelor Nation as Tyler Cameron’s best friend and business partner.
The duo met during their time playing football at Wake Forest University, where James played wide receiver and Cameron played quarterback. A year later, the two started their own charity, ABC Food Tours -- introducing children who live in low-income homes and domestic violence shelters to New York City’s diverse food industry.
ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke made a statement that James has been on their radar since February after acknowledging the backlash the show has received for notoriously always picking predominately white leads.
“We know we have a responsibility to make sure love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke stated. “This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise.”
The franchise has even received criticism from former Bachelorette lead Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black female lead in 2017. “I am sad to say that after four years in this franchise, we still do not have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves,” Lindsay stated.
After she expressed her disappointment in the company's refusal to choose another lead of color, ABC needed to take action, even if it was long overdue.
Following the announcement, some fans are still disappointed in the decision of choosing James over previous fan-favorite Bachelorette alum Mike Johnson, who was considered for season 24 but lost to Peter Weber.
Lindsay also spoke out about the decision stating, “I was extremely vocal about Mike Johnson and how he checked all the boxes and it didn’t make sense why he is not the lead. And it even seemed as if the audience wanted him.” Johnson has not yet commented on the recent casting decision.
James’ season will air in 2021.
Here’s how fans reacted on Twitter: