(Reuters) - A pair of African American men expect to file a lawsuit against ABC television and the producer of reality dating shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" charging racial discrimination, attorneys said on Tuesday.
The class action, to be filed in federal court on Wednesday, is being brought by two residents of Nashville, Tennessee who claim the popular shows intentionally exclude people of color.
Nashville residents Nathaniel Claybrooks, an All-American football player, and Christopher Johnson, an aspiring National Football League player, will claim that in the 10 years the shows have been on the air -- a combined 23 seasons -- neither has ever featured a person of color in a central role, according to a statement from the attorneys.
They plan a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the legal action taken "on behalf of all persons of color who have applied for the role of the Bachelor or the Bachelorette but been denied the equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race."
The lawsuit will be filed against ABC television, Warner Horizon television, Next Entertainment, NZK Productions and Michael Fleiss, the executive producer of the "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" franchises.
ABC could not immediately be reached for comment.
Fleiss was asked by Entertainment Weekly last year if the shows would ever feature someone who wasn't white.
He was quoted as replying: "I think Ashley (the 2011 Bachelorette) is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
"The Bachelor" made its debut on ABC in 2002 and features a single man who chooses a potential wife from a pool of about 20 women who are narrowed after weekly dates. "The Bachelorette" is the female version of the show and began in 2003.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)