Clothing That Can Get You Kicked Out Of A Theme Park

Warning: Today’s article may contain images and ideas that are not safe for work (NSFW), and may also be offensive. As a “University,” we reserve the right to have adult discussions on hot topics in the themed entertainment industry. Today is one of those days. Proceed at your own risk!

Copyright Universal Orlando 2012

Copyright Universal Orlando 2012

On August 24 of this year, Christian Jarosz was with his wife and daughter celebrating her 16th birthday and headed to the Blue Man Group show in CityWalk at Universal Orlando. According to Christian, before they entered the theater, he was asked to leave Universal because of a t-shirt he was wearing. The garment in question was a navy blue t-shirt that said “POLICE” in bold white letters and “Street Crime Unit” underneath.

Christian told reporters that he even offered to walk over to a clothing store within CityWalk to buy a new shirt to wear for the show, but Universal Orlando Security told him not to bother and that he needed to leave the premises. Universal claims this is not how the incident went down, stating, “…it is not our practice to ask guests to leave our theme parks simply because they ask us questions. I’d invite these guests to contact us if they’d like to have a conversation about what happened.”

Police Shirt

Universal Orlando’s Security clearly saw the t-shirt being an issue, because guests could confuse Christian with a real police officer in case of an emergency. His brother, a real New York City cop, gave him the shirt as a gift. Nowhere have I read that he was carrying a gun, handcuffs, a badge or any other kind of weaponry that might falsely identify him as a real officer of the law. Does that mean Universal has the right to ask him to leave simply because of his shirt? Absolutely.

As we have discussed here at Theme Park University in a previous article, a woman was asked to leave a water park because her bikini was considered “too skimpy” by employees. Nearly any business is considered private property and has the right to refuse service to anyone based on clothing, with the rare exception of states that do have discrimination laws regarding clothing.

Do I personally think Christian should have been asked to leave CityWalk because of that shirt, based on the information given to me? No. Do I think there is more to the story and Universal Orlando is keeping that information to themselves as to not cause Christian further embarrassment? Probably.

Humor me for a moment as we play the “what if” game: What if the shirt was red with white letters? What if it was a female wearing it? Or even a younger male around the age of 17? Do any of these things factor in? I definitely think so. Again, after knowing the theme parks business for as long as I have, something tells me that Christian’s actions combined with wearing that shirt is what got him ejected, but the shirt definitely plays an interesting role in the story.

Copyright Merlin Entertainment

Copyright Merlin Entertainment

In April 2012, a mother took her son to the Legoland Discovery Center in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Lana Massey wasn’t there very long when an employee tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to leave. The reason, she was told, was because of her tattoos, of which she has many. Not all of them, just one in particular on her lower leg.

Risque Tattoos

The image, pictured above, of Tinkerbell pleasuring herself on a light switch and topless made some parents uneasy. She was escorted back to the ticket counter and asked to leave. According to Lana, employees of Legoland never specifically told her which tattoo was the offensive one, but she assumes it was the one of Tinkerbell. She says her and her son have never been kicked out of anywhere before and was extremely embarrassed.

Time for the “What if?” game again. What if the tattoo was drawn differently and Tink wore a bikini top instead of topless? What if she had less of an “O face” and was merely smiling? Where is the line for obscenity drawn? Moving on…

April Spielman

In April 2012 April Spielman, a 14 year-old-girl, was denied admission to Animal Kingdom because of her Tinkerbell costume. This was her first trip to Walt Disney World and had park hopped from Disney’s Hollywood Studios over to Animal Kingdom, where her and her boyfriend had been wearing Peter Pan and Tinkerbell costumes. April made the costumes herself, including spending hours on her hair and makeup.

She claims that Disney told her that the costume was “too good.” According to the FAQ section of Disney World’s official site, clothing that is prohibited in the parks includes “Adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character.” The problem is, other guests were approaching April and asking to have their picture taken with her. As soon as that happens, Disney jumps in because what if those children think she is the real/Disney Tink? It’s a brand integrity issue that Disney is extremely possessive of and for good reason.

April Spielman

What if?” time again! What if she were not 14, but 10-years-old, not old enough to be the “real” Tinkerbell? What if she politely denied other guests the opportunity to take a picture with her? What if her costume didn’t look that good and a cheaper version? Would it have ended in the same final result?

Brunaud Moïse, in summer 2010, found himself being asked to turn his shirt inside out or leave La Ronde, a theme park just outside of Quebec. Brunaud was wearing a t-shirt with the image of Bob Marley made out of pot leaves. Park officials said it didn’t jive with their clothing policy prohibiting anything that is “rude, vulgar, offensive or graphics that aren’t ‘family friendly’.” Brunaud believes security singled him out because he is black and wearing a Bob Marley shirt somehow associates him with being a criminal. The last I heard was Moïse is seeking damages, including reimbursement of his ticket. He also wants La Ronde and Six Flags to apologize to Marley’s family. 

Bob Marley marijuana

I am not going to touch the race card on this one, mostly because I think it’s irrelevant. However, the pot leaves are definitely a fascinating point of conversation. First of all, I don’t think small children would question the pot leaves or even know what they are. Now for the “What ifs?”…. What if Moïse was within a state that currently allows the legal use of marijuana like Washington or Colorado? Even so… let’s say he is from Colorado, where pot is legal, and visits Six Flags Over Georgia (a state where pot is illegal), do you think he could get kicked out for that shirt?

What this all boils down to is simple, what I think or you think really doesn’t matter from a legal perspective. If a theme park sees what you are wearing, and deems it inappropriate for ANY reason, they can ask you to change clothes or leave. It’s as simple as that. The question remains: should they? More importantly, if people see an item of clothing that they feel is “not family friendly enough for a theme park,” is that a reflection on the park and will they not return and give them their business again? 

Copyright Six Flags

Copyright Six Flags

We are going to continue this discussion in a future article, but I want to get your opinions. Which of these examples do you think crossed the line? Do you think the parks did the right thing by asking them to leave or change clothes? Do you feel like other types of clothing like bikini tops, short shorts, or even see thru clothing should be banned in a park? Leave your comments in the section below and it could be featured in our next article about theme park apparel. 

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2 Comments

  1. JamieFeeney
    Posted September 5, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    This is a fascinating topic. I feel that shirts that are emblazoned with curse words or sexually suggestive phrases/pictures, or which depict illegal activities should be banned, as should apparel that is too small or too sheer, if those items do not adhere to a theme park’s dress code. However, the owner must act in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws and must be consistent in determining what they deem to be “offensive”.

    For example, while employees might have a right under park policy to eject a patron for wearing a costume or a shirt with an “offensive ” picture or saying, they cannot evict a woman wearing a hijab because it upsets an anti-Islamic patron. They could act if they felt that the head wear might be camouflaging a dangerous item…but they had better have some solid evidence as to why they suspected such. The older woman who was ejected from the water park due to the size of her suit should only have been ejected if younger women wearing similar or smaller suits were as well. in reverse, a man wearing a thong may be found to have been discriminated against if he is asked to leave while young women wearing thongs are allowed to stay.

    I can also understand why costumes would be banned…because the wearer may be considered (incorrectly)by guests to be an employee of the establishment s and may not act in a way that is appropriate when approached (f0r example, a pedophile using a costume to lure children or a man wearing a police shirt to lure guests and steal from them or enact some bodily harm). Park employees are not mind readers. They do not know the purpose behind the attire being worn, so they must err on the side of caution to minimize liability (and litigation) and to foster the environment that the owner feels is appropriate for their venue.

    When I visited Epcot recently, I found myself walking behind a man who wore a shirt that said something like “America, you can hate us as long as you fear us”, which I assumed (rightly or wrongly) was targeted at foreign visitors and employees. Might that be offensive to someone from, say, Egypt? It could be. Could he have been asked to change his shirt or leave? Yes, if other park guests or employees found his shirt to be offensive and complained. However, I also happened to be wearing a shirt that day which said “Manifest Destiny Equals Genocide” so…I would guess I would have been just as guilty of of wearing an “offensive” shirt as the Fear America man if someone saw my shirt, was offended, and complained about it.

    Legally, a theme park is private property and the owner has every right to formulate a dress code/behavior policy which best represents the owner’s values and mores as long as the rules and procedures are not determined to be discriminatory against a class that is protected by federal and state laws and are enforced consistently.

  2. jedited
    Posted September 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I think Universal was correct in the first case. That is a strange shirt to begin with. Most shirts I have seen that want to “represent” a particular law enforcement agency clearly are not shirts wore by law enforcement officers on duty.
    In the second case, I think this was particular to Legoland Discovery Center. Legoland Discovery Centers have rules unlike other attractions. For instance, you cannot enter an LDC without a child. Although most people might consider this extreme, I think it was appropiate for a location populated amost exclusively with young children.
    The third case was appropiate, but I’m curious how Disney handled it. Clearly the two young people are uber-fans and I would have tried to play to that without violating company policy. I would have found a way to turn the situation into a positive and made it a once in a lifetime experience for them.
    The fourth situation is a litte more of a gray area, but you can tell from the reaction that this is CLEARLY someone who is trying to make a big deal out of nothing for attention or money. “He also wants La Ronde and Six Flags to apologize to Marley’s family.” SERIOUSLY!?! I might have been upset had someone asked me to turn my shirt inside out, but when you wear controversial clothing you should expect reactions like that. When I wear political shirts I expect some
    people to appreciate my shirt and others to be upset by them. That’s why I wear them.
    I think that you need to have a clear and consistent policy, but I would also look for ways to try and turn the situations into a win, win situation for everyone without offending people or violating the policy.

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