Americans stunned by the surprising acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of teen Treyvon Martin February 26, 2012, now learn through Billboard that ten former American Idol contestants filed a 429 page, multi-million dollar lawsuit against the show. The show recently inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Broadcasting Hall of Fame April 8, 2013, “Idol” contestants have, according to their press release, produced over 370 No. 1 Billboard hits and accrued more than 250 million iTunes downloads. Breaking the July 24 lawsuit news, TMZ claims:
the contestants have accused producers of conducting a “cruel and inhumane” scheme to exploit them for ratings by illegally digging up their arrest histories and using the records to humiliate them on national TV.
The ten plaintiffs are not just suing Fox Broadcasting, Fremantle, and executive producer Nigel Lythgo. Billboard reports they are also suing many of Idol’s corporate sponsors including Ford Motors, Coca-Cola and AT&T. BizPac Review says the lawsuit stems from a complaint the group filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. HuffpostTV says it’s worth noting each of the ten plaintiffs could be awarded a minimum of $25 million and that “Idol” has had four African American winners during its run. TV Guide says they also seek to force American Idol to adopt new anti-racism regulations.
TMZ lists the plaintiffs in this lawsuit as past contestants — Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Jacob John Smalley (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8), and Chris Golightly (Season 9). The Los Angeles Times claims Corey Clark, now 33, feels “Idol” used them “to scandal-monger Nielsen ratings while reinforcing the age-old stereotype of the ‘black criminal.’ ” Fans will remember Clark, who according to the Los Angeles Times, was booted from Season 2 after it was revealed that he had been charged with battery and resisting arrest during a domestic dispute. American Idol producers said he was let go because he had not disclosed the arrest.
Attorney James H. Freeman, according to Newsday, has confirmed the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Huffpost TV says that according to Freeman, producers asking contestants, “Have you ever been arrested?” is a violation of the California employment law since his clients were applying for “employment” with “Idol” and it is therefore illegal to ask about their arrest histories. TV Line explains that counteracting the plaintiffs’ claim is the fact that throughout 12 seasons of American Idol, four of the winners — Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks and Candice Glover — were either black or from a mixed racial background.
Is racism alive and well in America? Buisiness Insurance reports of the lawsuit,
A staggering 31% of every American Idol semi-finalist contestant … who happened to be a young black male was disqualified from the singing competitor for reasons wholly unrelated to their singing talent. Even though there were three times as many white (or non-black) contestants featured on American Idol over the course of 10 years, there has never been a single white (or non-black) contestant disqualified from American Idol —not ever.
The lawsuit, which begins with the above quote from the late U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, as indicated by Billboard, attempts to make a statistical case that there’s something nefarious happening. BizPac Review reminds us with recent stories suggesting racism behind Detroit’s financial collapse and even student loan debt, the lawsuit is sure to draw the attention of a media fully invested in the false narrative of unchecked racism in America. With online registration for season XIII open until the end of August (the show scheduled to air 2014), American Idol mentions nothing of the ousted contestants or the stunning mega million dollar lawsuit.
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