ABC’s The Bachelor announced that next season will star the show’s first black bachelor in 25 seasons — Matt James.

Protests around the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have inspired new conversations about representation in entertainment. Last week, Rachel Lindsay, who was the only black woman to star in The Bachelorette in its 15 seasons, said she would not continue working with the franchise if they did not cast a black bachelor.

But one network executive has said that James was not cast because of Lindsay’s comments, nor the current social climate.

“It wasn’t a response to that. We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” ABC executive Rob Mills told Variety. “Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this. But I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap.”

Mills said that they had been thinking of casting James as the bachelor for a while, though he was originally going to compete in Clare Crawley‘s season of The Bachelorette, which has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. After the season was halted, executives started thinking of a lead role for James.

Fans of the franchise may know James as best friend to Tyler Cameron, the runner-up in Hannah Brown‘s season of The Bachelorette.

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Made you look 👀

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James has worked with Cameron running the charity ABC Food Tours, which gives under-privileged children from New York City the chance to try food from restaurants in their neighborhoods while learning about health and fitness. They both attended college together and are roommates in the big apple.

Cameron congratulated his friend on Instagram, “Congrats to my brother @mattjames919 on being named the Bachelor. This is all a testament of who you are as a person. Now the world gets to see the person you are and the heart you have. You can change the world. Proud of you and so excited for you. Not excited that somebody will be taking my spot as your snuggle buddy 😢 .
PS peep the drool 🤤.”

Since this announcement, Lindsay has continued to push for more black and diverse representation in the Bachelor franchise. On Friday she tweeted her congratulations, saying this was a “step in the right direction,” but called the casting decision a “knee jerk reaction.”

The president of ABC Entertainment Karey Burke promised that James’ casting would be “just the beginning” of addressing the issue of diversity in the series.

“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,” Burke said in a statement announcing James as the new bachelor. “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.”