Sesame Place controversy: Law firm files class action lawsuit against park on claims of discrimination
PHILADELPHIA - A law firm on Wednesday filed a class action lawsuit against SeaWorld, the parent company of Sesame Place, seeking millions in damages for alleged discrimination during a family's visit to the amusement park earlier this year.
Lawyers from Murphy, Falcon & Murphy held a press conference Wednesday in Philadelphia alongside Quinton Burns and his daughter Kennedi. They claim the father and daughter visited the park on Father's Day and the 5-year-old was snubbed by several characters during a meet-and-greet.
Attorney Malcolm Ruff said Kennedi was ignored "among a sea of white children" who the characters interacted with instead. The lawsuit, according to Ruff, was filed on behalf of any other Black family or person who believes they were discriminated against at Sesame Place.
RELATED: 'We won't accept that': Family seen in viral Sesame Place video speaks out, accuses park of discrimination
"Kennedi was forced to experience racism at the age of 5," Ruff said. They are seeking $25M in damages, and Ruff urged other families who have been feel they have been discriminated against to come forward.
Attorney Billy Murphy explained to reporters that the lawsuit is based on Section 1981 of the U.S. Code, which he says protects against a breach of contract based on race.
"We're here to make sure that justice is done to the families who did not have the experience at that park that they paid to get," Murphy said. "And the reason they didn't get the experience they paid and contracted to get is because of their race."
Sesame Place responded to the lawsuit Wednesday night, 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."
This comes more than a week after video showing two girls being ignored by a theme park character went viral and sparked outrage online.
After Sesame Place issued an apology, more parents came forward with similar stories about how their children were ignored by Sesame Place characters during visits.
RELATED: 'Hollow apologies': Sesame Place must take action after 'traumatic' character snubs, social work expert says
LaShonda Miles told FOX 29 her son and stepdaughter were denied a hug from a character after it hugged another child.
The videos quickly sparked discrimination allegations as many of the children being ignored were Black.
The family from the viral video spoke publicly at a press conference last week with their attorney B'Ivory Lamarr and activist Tamika Mallory of Until Freedom.
Lamarr told reporters that numerous families contacted his office with videos and details of similar discriminatory experiences at Sesame Place.
"We've come to learn that what took place Saturday is not an anomaly, but what we've seen is business as usual to deny and defend and delay accountability," Lamarr said. "An incident like this should not have to go viral for the harms to be properly addressed by corporations in this country."
They also called for the firing of the employee involved and asked for Sesame Place's parent company, Sea World, to get involved.
This request came as the family and their attorney released a new video that they say disproves the theme park's original apology, which alleged the character said no to someone standing behind the girls.
RELATED: 'Ball is in your corner': Family accusing Sesame Place of discrimination calls on Sea World to take action
Sesame Place then offered a third apology, saying, in part:
"We sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize to the Brown family for what they experienced. To be very clear, what the two young girls experienced, what the family experienced, is unacceptable. It happened in our park, with our team, and we own that. It is our responsibility to make this better for the children and the family and to be better for all families."
Lamarr is not representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit set to be announced Wednesday afternoon.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.