Family file $25 MILLION lawsuit against Sesame Street theme park

Family file $25 MILLION lawsuit against Sesame Street theme park

July 28, 2022

Family files $25 MILLION racial discrimination lawsuit against Sesame Street theme park claiming four popular characters including Rosita ignored their daughter during parade because she’s black

  • A Baltimore family is suing a Sesame Street theme park for $25 million after their daughters were allegedly snubbed by the costumed characters 
  • Their lawyer claimed the incident is not isolated and 25 to 30 other families have come forward with videos of similar incidents over the years 
  • He is now calling for the theme park to pay for the girls’ mental health expenses – and claims as one is in isolation 
  • Congressional Black Caucus members are reportedly seeking a meeting with leaders of the park

A Baltimore family is suing a Sesame Street-themed amusement park for $25 million over claims of racial discrimination, alleging multiple costumed characters ignored their five-year-old daughter during a meet-and-greet event last month because she was black.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of the Sesame Place, for ‘pervasive and appalling race discrimination.’

The lawsuit alleges four employees dressed as Sesame Street characters ignored Quinton Burns, his daughter Kennedi Burns and other black guests during the meet-and-greet on June 18.

 ‘Just looking at her face, it makes me want to cry every time I see it,’ Quinton Burns said during a press conference Wednesday.  

The lawsuit comes in the wake of a video, shared widely on social media, showing two other black girls from New York apparently being snubbed by a costumed employee during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia.

Sesame Place apologized in a statement and promised more training for its employees after the video went viral earlier this month. 

Quinton Burns, left, spoke of his anguish Wednesday as he filed a lawsuit claiming daughter Kennedi, right, was ignored by characters at a Sesame Street theme park parade because she is black

The lawsuit comes in the wake of a video, shared widely on social media, showing two other black girls from New York apparently being snubbed by a costumed employee during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia 

The lawsuit says ‘SeaWorld’s performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.’

During a press conference held Wednesday, one of the family’s attorneys, Malcolm Ruff, called for transparency from SeaWorld and for the company to compensate the Burns family. 

‘She was ignored amongst a sea of other young white children who were able to interact, give hugs, high fives,’ Ruff said. 

‘Kennedi was forced to experience racism at the age of 5. This is unacceptable and we will not stand by and let this continue,’ Ruff continued. 

Sesame Workshop – which was careful to explain that Sesame Place is a licensed partner – then posted another statement on its social media Monday night

Sesame Place responded to the lawsuit in a statement sent to Eyewitness News, saying: ‘We will review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Burns. We look forward to addressing that claim through the established legal process. We are committed to deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests.” 

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reportedly asked for a meeting with leadership at a Sesame Street theme park after video showing a costumed character waving off two six-year-old black girls during a parade went viral.

Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, first shared the nine-second video clip last weekend, showing the Sesame Place character Rosita high-fiving a white child and woman, then gesturing ‘no’ and walking away from the two black girls who had their arms out for hugs.

Black Caucus members are seeking a meeting with the theme park’s general manager Cathy Valeriano to ‘discuss the changes, plans of action, and training the park plans to implement,’ Fox News reporter Chad Pergram said on Saturday.

The caucus said: ‘Over the past week, we’ve seen multiple glaring examples of racism coming from the park, including the viral video in which two beautiful little black girls were blatantly rejected by a character they idolized while white children were embraced.’ 

Sesame Place confirmed the incident occurred in a statement posted to Instagram on Saturday, but said it was a ‘misunderstanding’

Brown has claimed that Rosita immediately hugged a white child after snubbing her daughter and niece, though those events are not seen in the video. 

On Saturday, Brown appeared on MSNBC and said she rejected the apologies that had been issued by Sesame Place, the theme park outside Philadelphia.

‘I don’t believe it was genuine, I believe they were just putting out statements due to how viral the video has gone,’ Brown said. 

Brown’s attorney B’Ivory Lamarr appeared alongside the mother and reiterated his threat to sue the theme park and demand that the unidentified employee in the Rosita costume be fired. 

In a statement on Sunday, theme park officials called the now viral moment a ‘misunderstanding,’ saying the mascot likely did not see the girls due to limited vision in the costume’s unwieldy mask.

‘Our brand, our park and our employees stand for inclusivity and equality in all forms,’ the statement read. ‘That is what Sesame Place is all about and we do not tolerate any behaviors in our parks that are contrary to that commitment.’

‘We also are, and always have been, committed to making sure every family and every child has the best possible experience at our parks and we are incredibly disappointed when that does not happen.’

‘We spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters,’ the statement read.

The park said the actor portraying Rosita – who was not named – ‘did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding.’

The statement alleged Rosita was gesturing ‘no’ to another guest who had requested they hold hold their child for a photo, ‘which is not permitted.’

The park also said the mascot likely did not see the girls due to limited vision in the costume’s unwieldy mask, which ‘sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels’ leading actors to occasionally ‘miss hug requests from guests.’ 

‘We apologize to these guests for not delivering the experience they expected and we commit to do our best to earn their and all guests’ visit and support,’ the statement concluded.

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