SeaWorld distributes video of author and Blackfish subject using racial slurs

Posted Thursday, April 2, 2015 9:27 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The whale trainer behind a book critical of SeaWorld says his former employer is conducting a "smear campaign" by releasing a 5-year-old video of him using racist terms while he was drunk. John Hargrove is on a book tour for "Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish." He was featured in the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which describes the life of killer whale Tilikum, which killed a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

Read more and see video from ABC News.

Thursday, April 2, 2015 9:38 AM

I love the "out of context" defense. Seriously, in what context is it ever OK to be blatantly racist like that? If you want to talk about context, look at the explanation of why he was fired, and tell me he doesn't have an ax to grind.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 9:40 AM

While I am happy to see that Sea World is going on the offensive, and fighting fire with fire, I think the damage toward SW is done and irreversible at this point.

Right, wrong or indifferent, there's some serious resentment toward SW in the general public and the topic is so polarizing you almost can't have a productive conversation with people who are anti SW.

It's a shame. I visited SW Orlando with my family back in December and we all had a great time and even learned a few things about marine life and conservation. Isn't that one of the points of having a marine life park?

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 9:42 AM

I still don't think there is any significant damage. (This is where I talk about cap ex, or lack thereof, but I don't need to go there again.)

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:12 AM

I would still argue against you on that. The Blackfish machine has spread, and a lot of people who were indifferent, or would have gone before, have jumped on the bandwagon.

There's no denying that there was a LOT of negative PR from that movie, otherwise, they wouldn't have been frantically sending emails (weekly, mind you) trying to save face.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 11:20 AM

I still think that's anecdotal. A lack of new attractions has caused attendance declines in competitive markets before. Universal had that issue for years under Vivendi. A 4% attendance decline, 5% revenue decline, are not the end of the world. The 16% decline in EBITDA for the year is obviously a problem, but with it up last quarter, I suspect the reversal is already in progress.

The company is clearly too dependent on the Orlando park, and while I still see out-of-town friends taking a day for SeaWorld, they don't bother if they've been in the last few years. Why would they? The only thing new in years is that awful spinning hockey puck ride you're forced to endure to see the penguins.

The market seems pretty optimistic with Manby's appointment. I think the next two years will be very telling.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 12:09 PM

Jeff said:

Seriously, in what context is it ever OK to be blatantly racist like that?

Yeah, this is like choosing to be a bigot SOMETIMES at your pizza shop - like when there's a gay wedding you're refusing to participate in, but not if they just walk in the door and want to order pizza.

Maybe Sea World should reopen a park in the middle-of-nowhere Ohio again. That seemed great for business around here at the time! Then everyone will forget all about this Blackfish stuff!

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 11:49 PM

Lack of Capex is a serious component to their decline. Let's also be honest that the increase in CapEx for Universal has moved a lot of total visits up by 1 day (single days are now 2, for Full Potter), 2 days are now three, etc.

Remember that there are 7 (nearly) full day theme parks in Orlando. As people expand their time at Universal, I think Sea World is the biggest loser in that (not totally a zero sum game). Just a hunch, no data to back it up nor have I looked for it.

There's also the fact that Blackfish didn't just air one time. It seemed like it was on an autoloop on CNN for a long time

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Friday, April 3, 2015 8:13 AM

As a local, I would also blame their operations for the main park. They're just awful. There is no sense of pride or urgency with their ride crews at all. When you wait a half-hour for Kraken mid-winter on a non-busy day, because they're running one train and not in any hurry to dispatch, you notice. No joke, I heard a family of Brits in front of me compare it to Hulk at Islands of Adventure, where "they're so bloody fast."

Interestingly, Discovery Cove is clearly not hurting, and Aquatica is almost always booming.

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Friday, April 3, 2015 9:12 AM

I think the problem with operations in that chain extend far beyond Orlando. I've been to the San Antonio, Tampa, and Williamsburg parks, and they aren't much better, with rides running well below capacity.

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Friday, April 3, 2015 12:18 PM

If you think that's bad, you don't even wanna KNOW how long I've been waiting to get in some of the attractions here at SeaWorld Ohio.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015 10:22 PM

Jeff said:

As a local, I would also blame their operations for the main park. They're just awful. There is no sense of pride or urgency with their ride crews at all. When you wait a half-hour for Kraken mid-winter on a non-busy day, because they're running one train and not in any hurry to dispatch, you notice. No joke, I heard a family of Brits in front of me compare it to Hulk at Islands of Adventure, where "they're so bloody fast."

Interestingly, Discovery Cove is clearly not hurting, and Aquatica is almost always booming.

sirloindude said:

I think the problem with operations in that chain extend far beyond Orlando. I've been to the San Antonio, Tampa, and Williamsburg parks, and they aren't much better, with rides running well below capacity.

Both of these x100! I about lost it on my visit to San Diego in 2013 when I saw what they were doing with Manta. They had 3 platform employees, which from a longer than necessary time to wait and observe should be adequate to run their separate load and unload stations (only one control point at unload). Were they using both stations? Of course not, they were making things needlessly complicated by having their 3rd platform person hold the line before the platform to allow the train to use load as an unload. This required waiting for guests to exit to the correct side, then figure out which direction to go to the exit (the QuickQueue line was not being utilized, and there was at least one other connection into the main line in addition to an awkwardly placed connection to the exit platform and ramp, so guests were going all over), and only once all exiting guests had finally found and gone to the exit ramp could the waiting guests proceed to the load platform. This easily took about 5+ minutes to unload and load a single train, and they were running 2, so one was sitting for a good 2 or 3 minutes in the unload station. So combine their typical slow pace and uncaring attitude towards operations with a horrible platform setup decision...maddening.

Not only do they have a capex/creative issue, they have a serious operations problem that is an attitude/culture problem. Fix that and guest experience would improve, which could indirectly improve other areas. Even if it doesn't, their operations need improved drastically.

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