Appeals Court Upholds FOX Win in ‘American Idol’ Racism Lawsuit
FOX wins! Again.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of FOX, upholding the initial ruling for the network against claims of racism from ten former black contestants on American Idol. It’s a lawsuit that dates back to July 2013, as a group of former contestants, including Season 2’s Corey Clark and Jaered Andrews, as well as Season 9’s Chris Golightly, alleged that producers exploited the criminal backgrounds of black contestants in order to prevent them from winning the show. The case made it all the way up to U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald, who dismissed the charges last November due to insufficient evidence and filings that were too late to survive the statute of limitations on discrimination in the first place. In particular, Buchwald singled out Golightly, claiming he didn’t offer enough evidence to prove that his race or criminal background had anything to do with his disqualification.
“Indeed, the complaint does not even allege that defendants were aware of his criminal history. Rather, the complaint provides a different, and entirely valid, reason for Golightly’s disqualification: his failure to disclose that he was previously under contract as a member of a music group named Dream5, despite being explicitly asked in the American Idol background questionnaire whether ‘he had ever been party to a music-related industry contract.'”
In Season 9, Golightly was named to the Top 24, but was disqualified due to a previous contract. He was replaced by Tim Urban, who would go on to finish 7th in the competition. Granted, Golightly didn’t seem too broken up about his disqualification, since he quickly moved on to another reality competition, Korea’s Superstar K. In that singing competition, Golightly revealed that he actually wrote several songs for popular Korean singers such as Jewelry and DBSK. This didn’t factor into the decision, although it’s hard to imagine it would have helped Golightly’s case, especially since this case for discrimination took years to file.
But back to Monday’s ruling, as FOX’s victory was upheld…by a three-judge panel, coincidentally enough.
“Here, the district court properly concluded that plaintiffs’ claims accrued when they were eliminated from the show, which was communicated to each plaintiff at the time of their respective eliminations,” states the summary order. “Insofar as plaintiffs submit that the limitations periods did not begin to run until plaintiffs knew or had reason to know of the allegedly discriminatory motives for their eliminations, we need not here decide whether accrual can ever be so based because plaintiffs have failed in any event plausibly to allege that they did not have reason to know of those motives until 2012.”
It’s hard to imagine this case ever really had a shot of making it far, considering two of the contestants in question were disqualified not for racial concerns, but over failure to disclose prior issues that were in violation of the contest’s rules. If Corey Clark, for instance, had disclosed his prior arrest ahead of time, and had still been disqualified after making the Top 12, then he would have probably had a case. Ditto Golightly, had he admitted his past and been put through, only to be disqualified for dramatic purposes. But the case they filed sounded like 10 people grasping at straws.
What do you think of the case and the ruling? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on American Idol, check out the latest music video from Idol alum Jennifer Hudson!