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Sesame Place under fire after Black mother says character ignored her daughters

The kids' theme park in Philadelphia apologized, calling the incident involving a performer dressed as Rosita a "misunderstanding."

A mother of two young Black girls is calling out Sesame Place Philadelphia after she says her daughters were intentionally dismissed by a performer dressed as a Sesame Street character over the weekend, sparking a fierce backlash online.

In the now viral video posted Saturday on the mother’s Instagram account, two young girls are seen excitedly reaching out to the character Rosita, the first bilingual muppet on Sesame Street. Although it appears that the performer had interacted with other children before reaching the girls, the video seems to show the character shaking their head “no” in the direction of the two young Black girls.  

“We were on our way out of sesame place and the kids wanted to stop to see the characters,” the mom wrote on Instagram. “THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us!”

NBC News has not verified the allegations.

A statement from Sesame Place Philadelphia to NBC News Monday evening said the company will conduct training for its employees to "better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests. "

“We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not ok," the statement said. "We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right."

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that oversees the brand Sesame Street, said in a public statement Monday that the company had been assured that Sesame Place, which it described as a licensed park partner, will conduct a "thorough review of the ways in which they engage with families and guests."

"What these children experienced is unacceptable," the statement said.

Sesame Place Philadelphia initially said on Sunday that the costumes its performers wear “sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels” and that sometimes “performers miss hug requests from guests.” 

Sesame Place said the performer portraying Rosita did not direct the “no” hand gesture, which was used more than once in the video, toward “any specific person,” but was instead gesturing that way in “response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted.”

“The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding,” the statement said. “We spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters.” 

The mother, who has not responded to NBC News’ request for comment, reacted to the statement shortly after in an Instagram story. She called Sesame Place’s apology “disrespectful and distasteful.” 

“I whole heartedly feel as though that statement was released to save face,” the mom wrote. “Don’t try to tell me he can’t see lower levels. He looked at them and said no!!”

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