A U.S. District Court has ruled that even if ABC discriminates in show casting, it doesn’t matter because they’re protected by the First Amendment.Back in April, Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks sued ABC after both tried out for the coveted role of the network’s “Bachelor,” and weren’t selected.
The two accused the network of racial discrimination suggesting “they and other minority applicants have been denied the equal opportunity to contract to be the Bachelor or the Bachelorette.”
Both men claimed this would be in direct violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a statuate that “prohibits intentional race discrimination in the making and enforcing of contracts involving both public and private actors
Note that through 16 seasons of “The Bachelor” and eight seasons of “The Bachelorette” there has never been a person of colour as either of the titular characters.
The two allege that decision is not a mistake, suggesting ABC makes a conscious decision based on the show’s “predominantly white viewership.”
Despite the men’s assertions, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ordered the motion to dismiss.
According to Trauger’s ruling, though the court may find ABC responsible of prejudice, they’re protected by the First Amendment right to control the show’s creative content.
From the suit ruling via Deadline:
“Thus, the court must assume, as alleged in the Amended Complaint, that the defendants did discriminate on the basis of race, that they did so to conform the content of their Shows to cater to the viewpoint of their target audience concerning interracial relationships, that the Shows’ content thereby perpetuates racial stereotypes about interracial relationships, and that the plaintiffs seek to alter/correct the defendants’ casting decision process to address that issue.
Regardless, as discussed herein, the First Amendment protects the defendants’ ability to control the content of their own programs unilaterally … because the defendants – not the plaintiffs – are entitled to control the casting of their own programs in the manner in which they see fit.”
According to Trauger, § 1981 would force ABC to “employ race-neutral criteria in the casting process,” which would also regulate the creative content of its shows.
Essentially, even if Claybrooks and Johnson are right, they will never win their case since ABC is protected by the First Amendment.
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