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'Bachelor' race discrimination lawsuit on the way

Ben Flajnik, right, star of the ABC romance

Ben Flajnik, right, star of the ABC romance series "The Bachelor," and his fiancee Courtney Robinson, center, attend the Mark Zunino for Kleinfeld wedding fashion show in New York. (April 16, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Two African-American men are filing a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing ABC and the producers of "The Bachelor" of racial discrimination.

"Over 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette,' neither show has ever featured a single person of color in the central role," a representative for the plaintiffs and their three law firms said in a statement to Newsday. The two men -- former college football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson -- are requesting class-action status "on behalf of all persons of color who have applied for the role of the Bachelor or Bachelorette but been denied the equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race." (The show has featured people of color as contestants, but never as the star.)

In addition to ABC, the suit names Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, NZK Productions and executive producer Michael Fleiss.

Claybrooks was a linebacker while a student at Middle Tennessee State University in the 1990s, where he was designated All Conference. He attended a "Bachelor" casting call at the Indigo Hotel in Nashville in August 2011, where he taped an interview.

Johnson, a high-school teacher and former football coach who played for Tennessee State University, went to the same casting call but said he was stopped in the lobby while other applicants were allowed to continue in. A staffer promised to take his photos and other material to a casting director, Johnson said.

Neither man ever heard back from the show.

An ABC spokeswoman forwarded a request for comment to Warner Bros., where a representative said the company would have no comment.

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