Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

American Idol contestants claim racial discrimination. Do they have a case?

Former 'American Idol' contestants say they were disqualified based on their race and criminal records, in violation of California law. What does a legal expert say about the American Idol case?

By Contributor / January 28, 2013

Former 'American Idol' judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell.

Fred Prouser/Reuters


Nine former "American Idol" contestants have filed a claim of racial discrimination against the popular reality TV show "American Idol," stating that they were they were publicly disqualified based on their race.

Skip to next paragraph

But what does a legal expert – and legal precedent – say about the legal merit of the claim?

The claim includes Season 2's Corey Clark and Jaered Andrews, Season 3's Donnie Williams, Season 5's Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum, Season 6's Thomas Daniels and Akron Watson, Season 8's Ju'Not Joyner and Season 9's Chris GolightlyNew York attorney James Freeman is representing them.

TMZ broke the story last Friday, quoting from the letter Freeman submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Freeman claims that the contestants were essentially applying for "employment" with Idol. During the background check that producers conduct on all American Idol contestants, they ask them whether they have ever been arrested, which would be a violation of California employment law. State law forbids employers from asking applicants about arrest history.

Freeman also claims that the show has never "publicly disqualified a white or non-black American Idol contestant in the history of the eleven season production," according to the letter.

Gloria Allred, a founding partner of law firm Allred, Maroko and Goldberg in Los Angeles, has been practicing discrimination law in California for more than 30 years and says that in order for the contestants to win the potential lawsuit, it would first need to be established that "Idol" is, in fact, an employer.


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Editors' picks

Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Endeavor Global, cofounded by Linda Rottenberg (here at the nonprofit’s headquarters in New York), helps entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

Linda Rottenberg helps people pursue dreams – and create thousands of jobs

She's chief executive of Endeavor Global, a nonprofit group that gives a leg up to budding entrepreneurs.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!