Raleigh’s Matt James, former Wake Forest receiver, will be first black ‘Bachelor’

The Sanderson High School graduate played at Wake Forest from 2011-14

This image released by ABC shows Matt James, who will be the next bachelor on the 25th season of the romance reality series "The Bachelor." (Craig Sjodin / ABC via AP)

NEW YORK — Raleigh native Matt James, who went to Sanderson High School and played at Wake Forest, will be the first black “Bachelor.”

The casting for the ABC reality dating show was announced Friday on “Good Morning America.”

Wake Forest wide receiver Matt James, who will be the first black man to be fill the title role on “The Bachelor,” catches a pass as Army defensive back Geoffery Bacon, defends during a 2014 game in Winston-Salem. James is a Raleigh native and played for seasons for the Demon Deacons. (Chuck Burton / AP Photo)

James, 28, was originally chosen to compete for Clare Crawley’s affection on “The Bachelorette,” but filming was scrapped in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Good Morning America” says James founded an organization in New York City that finds creative ways to engage children from underserved areas.

The show has been under pressure for years to be more diverse and cast a black “Bachelor.” A lawsuit filed in 2012 claimed the show was blocking contestants of color from starring roles. The case was dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

Until now, Rachel Lindsay was the only African American to be cast as a lead in the franchise’s 18-year history when she was named “The Bachelorette” in 2017. Lindsay has criticized the show publicly for not doing enough to increase diversity both in front of and behind the camera.

On Friday, James said he was optimistic.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said on “Good Morning America,” adding, “I don’t think there’s a wrong time to do the right thing.”

James played for the Demon Deacons from 2011-14 under Jim Grobe and Dave Clawson. In his senior season, his only playing for Clawson, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound James had 40 catches for 401 yards in nine games.

“The Bachelor” is expected to return in 2021.