After Viral Videos Alleging Discrimination, Sesame Place Is Getting Sued For Millions

Sesame Place entrance sign
(Image credit: Sesame

Lawsuits are not uncommon at theme parks but usually they involve guests sustaining injuries while inside the crowded parks, or as this case with a couple of recent cases at Universal Orlando, lawsuits over business deals related to the parks. Sesame Place in Philadelphia, however, now has a very different lawsuit on its hands, as a class action suit has been filed for $25 million claiming racial discrimination on the part of the theme park.

According to TMZ, the lawsuit lists a man named Quentin Burns, who visited Sesame Place with his daughter in June of this year. The lawsuit says the two of them attended a meet and greet with several costumed characters, including Elmo, Ernie, Telly Monster and Abby Cadabb. However, allegedly, none of the performers would engage with either of them, or with other Black guests in attendance, while they were interacting with white guests at the same event.

The lawsuit follows a high profile viral video from earlier this month that appeared to show a performer dressed as Sesame Street's Rosita telling two Black girls "no" when they tried to meet her. Sesame Place claims there was a misunderstanding and has reached out to that family to make amends, though they are reportedly considering legal action as well.

Following the initial viral video a number of other videos that appeared to show characters overlooking Black guests began to get traction online as well, which may be the reason this lawsuit was filed as a class action. Class action suits cover multiple parties with similar claims and allow an issue to be considered by a court once rather than seeing multiple smaller lawsuits move through the court one at a time.

In the case of the viral video incident, Sesame Place claims there was a misunderstanding and that the Rosita performer was waving off another guest who wanted them to hold their child for a photo, something that was not allowed, and was not saying no to the children. Sesame Place has responded to suit, 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.

Sesame Place is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, who licenses the Sesame Street name and characters from Sesame Workshop. The park has been in operation in Philadelphia since 1980. A second Sesame Place park opened in San Diego earlier this year. Thus far no allegations of discrimination have surfaced there.

Despite not being responsible for the park, the parent company ended up responding to the initial viral video due to the public outcry, saying that what the children experienced was unacceptable.

Sesame Place has promised that its staff will undergo bias training and that the ways in which they engage with guests will be reviewed. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.