NFL alum Jesse Palmer to replace Chris Harrison

Jesse Palmer, a former “Bachelor” star, NFL alum and current TV personality, will host the upcoming season of “The Bachelor” following longtime host Chris Harrison’s exit, ABC announced Tuesday. 

When the reality dating franchise returns Oct. 18 with Michelle Young’s season of “The Bachelorette,” former “Bachelorette” stars-turned-hosts Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will again take the helm. Palmer will join for the subsequent season of “The Bachelor,” slated for next year. The next Bachelor has not yet been announced, though it’s rumored to be a contestant fans will meet on Young’s season. 

Alongside a photo of himself standing outside the iconic “Bachelor” mansion, Palmer wrote on social media that he “couldn’t be more thrilled” to be making a return to the franchise and is “feeling so humbled and grateful for this incredible opportunity.” 

Palmer played football at the University of Florida before he was drafted into a five-year NFL career. In 2004, he became the first athlete, first non-American star (Palmer hails from Canada), and youngest star (then 25) of “The Bachelor.” His final rose went to then-22-year-old student Jessica Bowlin, though the two called it quits shortly after the finale.

He has since had hosting gigs with ESPN – which shares parent company Disney with ABC – along with DailyMailTV, The Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” and ABC reality dating series “The Proposal.” 

Harrison officially exited the franchise this summer after 19 years as host following a racism controversy. In an announcement in June, Warner Horizon and ABC Entertainment confirmed he would step aside and thanked Harrison “for his many contributions over the past 20 years.” 

“I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,” Harrison wrote in an Instagram post at the time. “I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together. While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”

He was subsequently replaced for “The Bachelor”s “After the Final Rose” special in March by author, TV host and former NFL player Emmannuel Acho.

More:‘Bachelorette’ co-hosts Tayshia Adams, Kaitlyn Bristowe on ‘father figure’ Chris Harrison’s exit

Harrison’s name had been synonymous with “The Bachelor” the show’s premiere in 2002. He went on to host a variety of other TV events including the Miss America pageant, though he remained best known as the face of the original reality dating show, “The Bachelorette” (which arrived in 2003) and “Bachelor in Paradise.”

Last spring during “The Bachelor” (starring Matt James, the franchise’s first Black male lead), contestant Rachael Kirkconnell faced backlash for previously liking Confederate flag-related TikTok videos and attending a plantation-themed party in 2018. Harrison came under fire for defending Kirkconnell, who who later apologized for her  “offensive and racist” actions and ultimately won James’ season. The couple broke up before the finale aired but later reconciled and are still together – Kirkconnell has attended her boyfriend’s performances on “Dancing With the Stars” this season. 

More:What will it take to fix ‘The Bachelor’ franchise’s racism?

Harrison defended Kirkconnell from what he called the “woke police” during a Feb. 9  interview on the syndicated “Extra” series with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black lead on “The Bachelorette.” 

“We all need to have a little grace… Because I’ve seen some stuff online, again this judge-jury-executioner thing, where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart,” Harrison said during the interview. “I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to.”

He continued: “The woke police is out there. And this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions. I don’t know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this.”

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