Lawsuit in the Works Against 'American Idol' Accuses Show of Racism -- Attorney Outlines How the Alleged 'Scheme' Has Operated TMZ

Nine former contestants on "American Idol" are preparing a lawsuit against the show, claiming they were bumped off as part of a racist and illegal plot to improve ratings, reports

The contestants, who are black, are from different seasons of the Fox singing competition. An attorney for the group, James H. Freeman, has written to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ask for permission to sue the show and Fox, the story says.

Freeman wrote that he investigated the show and found that producers had publicly disqualified 10 people from the show -- all of them black.

He believes the "scheme" started with a background check, when contestants are asked whether they've ever been arrested, which Freeman contends is in violation of California employment law. He asserts that his clients were in essence applying for employment with the program, and that would ban the program from asking about arrest histories, the piece says.

The information about arrest records was allegedly used to humiliate the black contestants and perpetuate "destructive stereotypes," Freeman contends. He also alleges that the show has never publicly disqualified a white or non-black "Idol" contestant.

"Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said the allegations were "ridiculous" and added, "We treat everybody the same ... no matter the race, religion or sex."

The contestants are: Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (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).