The Mummers’ attempts to improve their reputation for diversity with the inclusion of new ethnic dance divisions this year were completely overshadowed by incidents of racist and homophobic content by some parade participants, as well as a protest that ended in two arrests.
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney tweeted about a skit by the Finnegan New Year Brigade that mocked Caitlyn Jenner: "It was bad. Hurtful to many Philadelphians. Our Trans Citizens do not deserve this type of satire/insult. #BeRespectful."
"If this is what the Mummers mean by 'handing down tradition,' it needs to stop. #MummersParade #Appalling," tweeted Juntos, a pro-immigrant activism group, in response to images of children in ponchos and brown facepaint at the Sammar Strutters performance.
In response to video of a member of Finnegan New Year Brigade shouting "F--- the gays," Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs, tweeted, "This is horrible, disgraceful behavior that does not represent Philadelphia as a whole. This type of hate has no place in our city."
Across social media, many from Philly and around the world expressed outrage: "#MummersParade is for uneducated, pathetic racists and haters," one tweeted. "The Mummers should have went the way of other Philly dinosaurs," posted another.
Meanwhile, a gay man alleged that he was beaten up by several Mummers while walking his dog in an alley off Broad Street, the Daily News reported.
In response, the Mummers organization has decried the incidents, the participant who yelled “F--- the gays” has been booted from his club and banned from the parade, and the organization is investigating other reports, a spokesman said.
“There are thousands and thousands of Mummers. Virtually all of them handled things well, had a great day,” said George Badey, chair of Love the Mummers and a spokesman for the parade.
“We represent a tradition that’s 300 years old. We don’t want to let even a handful of people mar or destroy that. We’re not going to tolerate hate speech in our parade.”
The Caitlyn Jenner skit featured Mummers holding signs with pictures of Bruce Jenner on a Wheaties cereal box next to a picture of a Froot Loops box with a picture of Caitlyn Jenner, while a performer danced changed from male to female clothes while Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” played.
On social media the entire skit was criticized as transphobic.
The participant who was videotaped screaming “F--- the gays,” who is not being identified, did not represent the club or the spirit of the skit, Badey said.
“The guy was a jerk,” he said. “The head of that group said their members were appalled.”
The “brownface” Mexican skit is being looked into, Badey said, adding that the Mummers are considering whether any Mummers planning a skit with an ethnic theme will have to do outreach with members of that group.
“Going forward we want to be more careful. We think we should reach out to any ethnic community if there’s going to be an ethnic theme,” he said.
“We want to use this as a teaching moment ... We will not tolerate hate speech.”
Vince Giannini, senior vice president and general manager of PHL17, the channel that broadcast the Mummer's parade, said they are in talks with the Mummers organization to make sure offensive displays are not part of future parades.
"They need to be more sensitive to the issues of today," Jiannini said. "The Mummers intend on addressing the issues .... The leadership was as upset as many people out in the city."
Based on the commitment to diversity the Mummers organization made in a press release (see image above), Jiannini said he thinks the problem will be addressed.
"This parade for 100 years has been a source of pride for the city, and with the changes the Mummers look to make, I think the parade will continue to flourish."
See video below of the "F--- the gays" incident. Warning: explicit language.