Leading man vibes! Matt James is the new Bachelor for season 25, making him the first black leading man in franchise history. The former football player is BFFs with Bachelorette alum Tyler Cameron and was originally cast to be a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season.

“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” a statement read on Good Morning America from ABC said on Friday, June 12. “This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

Bachelor Matt James Wears Sweater and Holds Rose
ABC/Craig Sjodin

The announcement follows a petition signed by 84,000 people who called Bachelor Nation’s lack of diversity “unacceptable.” In 40 seasons combined, Rachel Lindsay, who was the Bachelorette during season 13, is the only black lead to ever appear in the franchise. Mike Johnson from Hannah Brown’s season was previously considered to be the season 24 Bachelor but was passed over in lieu of Peter Weber

Bachelor Matt James Wears Orange White and Blue Sweater
Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

Rachel, 35, has been extremely vocal about the lack of diversity and said, “At this point, it’s embarrassing to be affiliated.”

“I think that they have to at this point, give us a black Bachelor for season 25. You have to, I don’t know how you don’t,” the lawyer expressed about the famed franchise during an interview with Kelsey Meyer on AfterBuzzTV on June 5. “And, it’s been asked of me, will I continue in this franchise if it continues in this way? I can’t. I have to see some type of change.”

Shirtless Tyler Cameron Stands With Roommate Matt James in a Jacket and Shorts
Courtesy of Tyler Cameron Instagram

As far as what the season holds, Matt, 28, is one seriously eligible dude. He attended Wake Forest University and graduated with a degree in economics. After an impressive football career in college, he went on to try his hand at playing football for the NFL. After being eventually cut from the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, he now works in commercial real estate in New York City, where he lives with Tyler. Besides his 9 to 5 job, he is the founder of ABC Food Tours, a nonprofit that engages kids in underserved communities through food.

This means he will no longer appear on Clare’s season, which has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chris Harrison said in May, Matt was still expected to be one of the men vying for the hair stylist’s heart. “I mean, I have not heard anything different,” the show host told Entertainment Tonight at the time. Although their paths won’t end up crossing on the reality dating show, Matt said he’s “looking forward to meeting [Clare] eventually.”

However, after receiving backlash from fans over the major age discrepancy between the Sacramento native and the majority of her contestants, it seems the show may be recasting. Clare, 39, encouraged people to apply for her season and said she didn’t “think it was too late” in March. 

We can’t wait to see what Matt brings to the franchise!