Sesame Place apologizes, twice, after video of character interacting with Black girls goes viral

Chris Hondros
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Sesame Place has issued a second apology after a video surfaced showing a character appearing to ignore two young Black girls at a parade.

On Saturday, Jodi Brown shared a 9-second video of her daughter and niece extending their arms for hugs from a performer in a Rosita costume. In the video, Rosita can be seen high-fiving other guests as she walks in the parade. But as the girls hold out their hands, the character appears to wave the 6-year-old girls away. Both children are left visibly confused.

“THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us!” Brown wrote on Instagram. Brown noted that when she spoke to staff at the Pennsylvania theme park, they looked at her like she was “crazy.”

Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland was among those who shared their outrage.

"OK so had that been me, that whole parade would have been in flames,” Rowland said in her Instagram story.

“Like, are you serious? You’re not going to speak to my child? And did you see that baby’s face at the end? The little one with the pink on? She deserves an explanation,” Rowland continued

The Brown family has hired a lawyer; no lawsuit has been filed.

According to a statement from Sesame Place, character costumes were to blame.

“The costumes our performers wear sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from guests,” Sesame Place explained on Monday.

It added that the performer’s “‘no’ hand gesture’ was “a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo, which is not permitted.”

Brown called the statement "disrespectful and distasteful."

"Don't try to tell me he can't see lower levels," she wrote on her Instagram story. "He looked at them and said no!! So embarrassing and hurtful."

After videos popped up on social media showing other Black kids being seemingly ignored or dismissed by costumed characters in the park at various times, the park issued a second apology.

“We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not OK,” Sesame Place Philadelphia told TODAY Parents in a statement that was also shared on social media. “We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.”

In an a separate statement, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, called Saturday’s incident “unacceptable.”

“We have been in contact with Sesame Place, our licensed park partner, and they have assured us that they will conduct bias training and a thorough review of the ways in which they engage with families and guests,” Sesame Workshop told TODAY in an email.

“As a global nonprofit educational organization with a mission to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder, Sesame Workshop has always stood for respect, inclusion and belonging and is committed to providing the highest quality engaging experiences for all children and families,” it continued. “We hold our partners to the same high standards. We will continue working with our long-term partner Sesame Place to ensure that appropriate actions are taken and that incidents like this do not happen in the future.”

Attorney B’Ivory LaMarr, who represents the family, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday that he was “extremely appalled” by the way the girls were treated. “I am even more astonished at the lack of accountability by Sesame Place; to quickly dismiss the egregious behavior of its employee is even more appalling,” LaMarr said.

TODAY has not verified the accusations.

TODAY reached out to Sesame Place for a response to LaMarr’s comments, and has not heard back.