One reason that I always assumed that this was an issue is the lack of Black men who are financially wealthy & single. For those who may not be aware of the constant theme of the show - it's basically about a group of 1-2 dozen barbie doll women (often gold diggers of a variety of races) who compete for the affection of a rich or well-to-do white guy (much like the dating scene in America....except it's just a microcosm of that larger scene). Perhaps the producers had trouble filling slots with Black men because it was hard to find enough who met the shows financial requirements. But then the lack of Black men in the lead role as "Bachelor" ended up being a reoccurring theme year after year.... surely after 10 years they could have found a well-to-do Black guy. So after a while it became clear that this could not have been the only issue.
I believe the real issue has more to do with the uncomfortable topic of interracial relationships. The producers of the show probably don't want to see an interracial pairing. They also don't want a situation where racism pops up during production. They are afraid of a situation where non-black female contestants have an unfavorable reaction or may reject a Black Bachelor because of racial differences. They want to avoid a real "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 2.0" played out in front of a national TV audience, with a rawness that no one will expect. That's one fear... Another fear may be that an interracial pairing may come up that may turn out to be successful (or successful based on silly scripted reality show standards...as successful as those pairings can really be). The most likely scenario would be Black men being rejected in the ugliest ways imaginable.
These fears are backed up in the OKCupid report that came out a few years ago pointing out the role or racial prejudice in online dating. I also talked about my experiences with this problem in the commentary "White Men Only". This is how I know...that the plaintiffs in this case are on to something. One of the last ways to really reveal racism is through the dating scene. All of the pretending to love everyone B.S. washes away...and people are exposed for what they really are. Whatever racist feelings that people have buried within themselves are often brought to the surface through the context of dating. The producers at ABC are aware of this...and they are scared to death. I also imagine that a Black male lead probably wouldn't bring the high ratings...for the same reasons.
The network probably wants to avoid the public backlash from either scenario. But I think having a Black lead and exposing these racist feelings within the contestants would finally shed light on one of the last bastions of blatant racism in this Country. People don't know how common this is... but racism in dating is huge, even when we have more Americans than ever saying that they are more comfortable with interracial relationships. Non-Black families bullying their daughters not to bring home a Black guy is an issue in households across the Country. It's a behind closed doors discussion that probably takes place in more households than anyone wants to admit. It is especially big in Asian-American families. Bringing home an Asian man is ok. Bringing home a white man is almost encouraged and seen as a sign of "success". Even an Hispanic or East Indian may be fine. But bringing home a Black man usually falls within "unforgivable....you will be disowned by the family" territory.
Unfortunately this case may be hard to win. The case may hinge on the right of a private business (a network and TV show) to exercise a certain level of discrimination or preference to fit the theme of its programming. Networks have a right to show programming that they believe viewers would like to see and that would maximize (within reason) its ability to gain good ratings and earn money through advertising. Unlike a case where public accommodations are involved, there is no inherent legal right to appear on a television program owned by a private business. On the other hand, the show is billed as a reality program...and the lack of diversity with the lead characters is not a reflection of reality in this Country -- I think this may be a legitimate point by the plaintiffs.
Of course I hope the plaintiffs win.