Black ‘American Idol’ contestants file discrimination lawsuit


Ten former American Idol” contestants are suing the long-running reality singing competition show for alleged discrimination and have sought attorney James H. Freeman to represent them. Besides filing a lengthy 429-page lawsuit, the plaintiffs are not just suing Fox Broadcasting, Fremantle and the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe; they are also suing many of “Idol’s” corporate sponsors including Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola and AT&T. In fact, the $250 million lawsuit comes amid a proposed class action on behalf of Black Golden Ticket Holders” (2002-12, males only) that puts the defendants into four groups — “Production,” “Network,” “Overseer” and “Sponsor.”

The lawsuit, which begins with a quote from the late U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, attempts to make a statistical case that there’s something outrageous happening.

“A staggering thirty-one percent (31%) of every American Idol Semi-Finalist contestant [Top 24, Top 36-40] who happened to be a young Black male was disqualified from the singing competition for reasons wholly unrelated to their singing talent. Even though there were three (3) times as many White (or non-black) contestants featured on American Idol over the course of ten years, there has never been a single White (or non-black) contestant disqualified from American Idol – not ever.”

If the plaintiffs manage to survive the first round, they’ll also have to show why the First Amendment doesn’t bar their claims. In October 2012, a judge dismissed ABC’s “The Bachelor” discrimination lawsuit on the grounds that casting decisions are a component of an entertainment show’s creative process and indisputably protected as free speech.

Anticipating that challenge, the plaintiffs have an answer for it. “American Idol” isn’t about “casting.” It’s a “contest” with different rules and regulations:

“Applying the definition of ‘casting’ to the matter here, the only segment of the American Idol season that could possibly be described as a ‘casting’ would be the Open Audition rounds where various sorts of decidedly meritless singers are used for comic effect. Such performers have been ‘cast’ because the Overseer Defendants already know they are not getting a Golden Ticket. But once a Golden Ticket has been awarded to a prospective contestant, they have been deemed qualified to compete in American Idol by the Panel of Expert Judges and, therefore, they have become actual (rather than prospective) contestants. At that point, the contest has begun.”

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