ABC names first black 'Bachelor' for season 25
© Good Morning America

"The Bachelor" announced its first black male lead in the show’s history on Friday, casting Matt James as the next bachelor in the upcoming 25th season of the popular ABC reality television show.

The decision was announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday. James called his casting “a step in the right direction.” 

“This is hopefully the first of many black men to be in the position that I’m in now,” James said.

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When asked if the move was “too little, too late” on the part of the reality show, James said, “I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing, so ‘too little, too late’ for me is this happening, and we can’t have change until you put that first foot forward, and that first foot forward for the ‘Bachelor’ franchise is having a black lead, so I’m excited to take on that role,” James said, calling the move “an honor.”   

James added, “I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me, and hopefully when people invite me to their homes on Monday night, they’re going to see I’m not much different from them, and they’re going to see that diverse love stories are beautiful.” 

James lauded former “Bachelorette” lead Rachel Lindsay, who has repeatedly called for greater support for contestants of color and more diverse casting on the show. Lindsay was previously the only black lead in 40 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” 

Lindsay on Friday called for the reality show to take additional steps to increase diversity on the show and in the production of the show.  

“I want producers of color. I’d like them to cast leads who are interested in dating outside of their race and aren’t just getting their first-time experience for the first time on national TV,” Lindsay told “Good Morning America.” “I need the acknowledgement of that, not putting a Band-Aid over the situation and just saying ‘here, we’re going to put this here, are you happy now?’”

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The move comes as former contestants and fans alike have called for the show and its spinoffs to cast more contestants of color. The Bachelor Diversity Campaign was launched Monday by 10 viewers of the show. The group started a petition that has been signed over 85,000 as of Friday morning calling for a black lead, in addition to 12 other demands to increase diversity on the show and support contestants of color.

“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. This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him,” Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a Friday statement.

The move comes as protests have erupted across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died last month after a former police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.