'A step in the right direction': Matt James named the first Black 'Bachelor'

By Zach Harper

Huge congratulations are in order for Matt James, who has just been named the next Bachelor, and is also the show's first-ever Black male lead!

Good Morning America announced contestants will vie for the 28-year-old's love in the 25th season of the show, which is set to air in 2021.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," Matt said of the news as he appeared on Good Morning America on June 12. "We can't have change until we 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."

Matt is just the second Black person to be a lead on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. In 2017, Rachel Lindsay was cast as lead for Season 13 of The Bachelorette.

Matt also told GMA he wanted Bachelor fans to see "diverse love stories are beautiful."

Those who watch the show may already know Matt very well. Just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down filming on The Bachelorette, Matt was cast as a contestant in the season that was to feature Clare Crawley as the lead. He's also roommates with Tyler Cameron, who was a contestant on Season 15 of The Bachelorette.

Matt James and Tyler Cameron met at Wake Forest University, where they played football. Photo: © Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

"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," ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement.

"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," ABC said in a statement as it announced the news.

"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."

ABC's news comes after more than 84,000 people signed a petition that said ABC needed to cast more people of colour.

"As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color ("BIPOC") relationships, families and storylines," the petition read. "Representation matters, and it is one of the most important ways our country can embrace its diversity and evolve."

The petition called on ABC to take 13 actions, including casting a Black man for Season 25 lead in The Bachelor, casting BIPOC for at least 35 per cent of contestants in each season, equitable time for BIPOC contestants, equitable compensation for them and active support on set, and a public pledge to vet contestants to ensure those who have "promoted prejudice" are not cast.

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