(USA TODAY) - The Bachelor and The Bachelorette came under fire Wednesday for its casting practices, as two black men filed a lawsuit accusing the ABC reality dating series of racial discrimination.
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson filed suit in Nashville, arguing that the fact that a person of color has never been the central figure on either show over a combined 23 seasons amounts to a pattern of discrimination. The suit was filed against the network along with Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, NZK Productions and the shows' creator, Michael Fleiss.
"The shows' complete lack of color is no accident," according to a copy of the lawsuit posted on the Deadline: Hollywood website. "These applicants were denied the same opportunity to become the next Bachelor or Bachelorette as white contestants not because they were unsuitable for the role or could not contribute to the shows' 'eclectic mix,' but solely because of the perceived risk that casting a Bachelor or Bachelorette who is a person of color would alienate the show's majority-white viewership."
Claybrooks and Johnson say they weren't given the same opportunity as white men to compete for the role of The Bachelor during a casting session in August, the Associated Press reported.
"I only wanted a fair shot at the part," Claybrooks said. "Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn't possible. I never even had a chance."
Both shows have been criticized for lacking diversity.
An ABC representative says the network doesn't comment on pending litigation and a Next employee referred a reporter to Warner Horizon, which issued a statement late Wednesday.
"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," the statement says.