Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell of Bachelor fame have officially made their initially tumultuous relationship red carpet official. The pair attended the 2021 ESPY Awards in New York City on Saturday, July 10 and were all smiles and hugs while posing for photos on their way in. The reality TV couple has been spending lots of time together recently, even hanging out with friends in Montauk over Memorial Day weekend.
The two seem to be enjoying their rekindled romance following an early racism scandal centered on Kirkconnell’s past actions, including attending an antebellum-themed party in college. The photos surfaced on social media during James’ season of The Bachelor — after taping but before fans saw her receive the final rose. During the After the Final Rose special, they revealed that they’d broken up. Kirkconnell apologized, sharing that she was “learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist.”
In the weeks after that apology, speculation emerged that the pair might be back together, and James confirmed to People in April that they’d indeed been seeing each other again. “I’ve seen Rachael a handful of times,” he told the magazine. “I’m not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it.”
Though fans of the reality dating series seemed surprised that James would look past Kirkconnell’s behavior, he shared with WSJ that he believed she deserved another chance.
“I think the best way to put it is that we can have critical conversations about being in this relationship and what I need in a partner — especially if that woman isn’t Black — [is] to understand what comes with me and my life and being Black,” he said. “It’s on people who care about being allies to do the work to be truly antiracist. And I think it’s unfair to leave people without the ability to unlearn and be better.”
Ultimately, though, it was an ultimatum from Kirkconnell that pushed the couple to get back together. “She was like, ‘If you’re going to make this work, let’s do it. But, if you’re not going to make it work, I’m going to let you do your own thing,’” James told the host of the Pomp podcast. “That’s really all I needed. It was an ultimatum that I needed. It’s been great. It was honestly a commitment that we made to each other that we were going to work on the relationship.”
Speaking of moving forward from the past, James and Kirkconnell’s red carpet debut included run-ins with celebrities like Sha’Carri Richardson. He posted a photo on his Instagram after the ESPYs, showing the track star posing cheerfully alongside him. The sprinter was recently barred from running in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana during the track and field trials. The event was Richardson’s first public appearance since news broke earlier this month that she was no longer able to compete with the U.S. Olympic team.