Families Sue Universal Orlando Alleging ‘Mental Anguish’ After Mascot Used ‘OK’ Hand Gesture

(Photo by JOHN RUDOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Two families are suing Universal Studios after claiming a character at the resort made a racist hand gesture while posing for photos with their daughters.

The lawsuit alleges that an actor dressed as Gru from “Despicable Me” flashed the “OK” symbol while taking photos with the girls, who were 5 and 6-years-old when the photos were taken, local outlet WKMG reported Friday. The “OK” hand gesture, while typically innocuous, is used by some individuals as a symbol for white power, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The lawsuit alleges that the 6-year-old girl, referred to as J.Z. in the lawsuit, attended breakfast at Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort on March 23, 2019, according to WKMG. There, she ran into a character dressed as Gru from “Despicable Me,” and took a photo and video with him. While J.Z. was taking a photo with Gru, the character actor placed his hand on the shoulder of the girl while making the “OK” symbol, a photo provided by the family showed, WKMG noted.

J.Z.’s family also claimed the character made the gesture for an extended period of time. “He put his hand on her as if he was just doing it regularly, and as I was looking at the camera, he started to put the universal white supremacist hate sign on her shoulder,” Tiffiney Zinger, the girl’s mother, told USA Today in an interview. “We just wanted to take them to see the Minions, do something special for our family, and this person ruined that special warm feeling,” Zinger added. (RELATED: ‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare’ Removes ‘OK’ Hand Gesture)

The lawsuit then claimed that the girl attempted to use the photo she took with the Gru character for a school project, but was humiliated when she was told she could not use the photo because of the “OK” gesture flashed by the character, WKMG reported.

The other girl, referred to as H.R. in the lawsuit, apparently had a similar experience with a Gru character in February 2019 who flashed an “OK” symbol in a photo.

A Universal spokesperson told WKMG that the actor who dressed as Gru was fired in October 2019, but did not disclose the name of the employee.

The “OK” hand gesture “in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless,” according to the ADL. The source of its alleged offensiveness in some cases is the result of a hoax perpetrated by 4chan members that “hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist,” the ADL webpage on the okay hand gesture claims. However, the ADL claims that some actual white supremacists “seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy.”

The families want more than $30,000 in damages because of the mental anguish, loss of dignity, humiliation, embarrassment, and other kinds of emotional damages their daughters allegedly went through because of the photos, according to WKMG.