“Big Brother,” CBS’s long-running reality competition, has kicked off a contestant for using a racial slur.
The contestant, Luke Valentine, used a slur for Black people this week while chatting with other men in the compound where houseguests are filmed 24 hours a day as they compete for a large cash prize. Valentine is white, and one of the other men in the conversation is Black.
The incident, broadcast during the show’s live online feed, was addressed on Thursday night’s episode, in which highlights from the feed are interspersed with contestants’ reflections on recent events in the house.
“It’s been an emotional 24 hours in the ‘Big Brother’ house as the houseguests learned that one of their own broke the ‘Big Brother’ code of conduct and was removed from the game,” the show’s longtime host, Julie Chen Moonves, said during the episode.
After Valentine, an illustrator from Florida, used the slur, he immediately apologized to the three other men in the room and tried to backtrack. Clearly shocked, two of the men quickly left. Jared Fields, who is Black, mostly stayed quiet but responded to Valentine by saying that the slur can make white people more uncomfortable than Black people.
“Well, I’m in trouble now,” Valentine said to Fields.
In an interview aired on Thursday’s episode, Fields said: “My nonreaction in the moment, being the only Black male in this house, I don’t know what to say. Anything I say or do can come across wrong or aggressive.”
“I don’t associate ignorance with malice,” he later added.
On an Instagram account that is followed by verified accounts of other “Big Brother” contestants, Valentine posted an apology to his story, along with a photo of himself and a prayer hands emoji. “Luke made a big mistake,” it read, “please forgive him.”
Andy Herren, the show’s Season 15 winner, said CBS did the right thing by expelling Valentine. “YEARS of problematic behavior and language in the Big Brother house going unpunished led to fans and former houseguests speaking up,” Herren posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. He added, “This is huge and will change things moving forward!”
“Big Brother,” now in its 25th season, has a history of racism among its contestants.
In 2019, shortly before winning Season 21, Jackson Michie was asked on live television to answer for accusations that some of his behavior during the season had been racist and sexist. He defended himself in the moment but later apologized, admitting blame. Aaryn Gries, a Season 15 contestant, was questioned by Chen Moonves after being filmed making racist and homophobic remarks.
Black contestants have also struggled to advance on “Big Brother,” often getting voted out early. The show’s first Black winner, Xavier Prather, was not crowned until Season 23. The next season featured the show’s first Black female winner, Taylor Hale.
“It was something I was cognizant of,” Prather told The New York Times this year. “I am a 6-2, 200-pound athletic Black man — I can’t approach the game the same way that a slim, 5-10 white man can, because we’re perceived differently.”
“To assume that I could approach the game the same way would be to assume that I could approach life the same way,” he continued. “‘Big Brother’ is literally a reflection of our society.”
Calum Marsh contributed reporting.