Matt James, a former wide receiver at Wake Forest, will make history as the first black man to be the lead on “The Bachelor.”
The series is in its 25th season and has been criticized for years alongside “The Bachelorette” for being predominantly white. Those criticisms took on renewed urgency as demonstrations continue around the nation for racial equality.
James, 28, is only the second black person to be featured in the title role in the combined 40 seasons of the two shows. Rachel Lindsay led “The Bachelorette” in 2017.
James’ career was beset by injuries and he played in 23 games across four seasons from 2011-14. His best season came as a senior when he had 40 catches for 401 yards but didn’t catch a touchdown. That was a 3-9 campaign in current coach Dave Clawson’s first year at the school.
He took part in the Carolina Panthers’ rookie minicamp in 2015.
James was originally supposed to be a potential love interest for the upcoming “The Bachelorette” season that features Clare Crawley, but production was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis.
ABC president Karey Burke said in a news release 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. 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.”
The season featuring James is scheduled for sometime in 2021. He currently works as a real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder.
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