Henry Pierson Curtis and Scott Powers, Orlando (Florida) Sentinel, June 27, 2007
Walt Disney World ejected four of Florida State University’s top football prospects from Downtown Disney last weekend under its anti-gang, no-loitering policy.
The four, including the son of a Disney manager and the son of a Philadelphia civil-rights lawyer, were banned for life from Disney World property late Friday.
A Disney spokeswoman said the youths were expelled because they had been loitering for an extended period and refused to leave when Disney security told them to.
Parents of the youths wonder whether there’s another reason: They’re black.
“I keep thinking to myself, ‘This is crazy,’” said Mark Nugent, stepfather of Vincent Williams, football star at Ridge Community High School in Polk County. “Once they realized they weren’t gangbangers, why didn’t they let them go? They took their pictures. They fingerprinted them. And treated them like common criminals.”
Because of concerns about a rise in ganglike activity at Downtown Disney lately, loitering or “any other inappropriate behavior” by groups of youths is not going to be tolerated, spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said Tuesday.
“This group was seen loitering for an extended period of time,” she said. “When asked, sometime after 11:30, they produced a movie ticket for a film that had already started sometime earlier. Security asked them to go to the movie or leave, and they failed to cooperate.”
“Why else would they follow them for an hour and a half to two hours?” said Moody, whose son, Nickolas Moody, listed on the police report as Nickolas Cannon, plays safety for Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. “And how can you trespass someone in Downtown Disney for walking around? I’ve been there before, and that’s why it’s there.”
48 warnings issued in 2 weekends
Orange County deputy sheriffs have issued at least 48 trespass warnings at Downtown Disney during the past two weekends since the push against loitering began. Records of those cases provided to the Orlando Sentinel show that 45 of the 46 people banned from Disney for life during the past two weekends were blacks or Hispanics.
Records show the only white teen banned so far from Disney was accused of creating a disturbance outside the Planet Hollywood restaurant by loitering, arguing with Disney guards, swearing at them and refusing to leave the property.
The fifth player, Moses McCray, 17, of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, said he left before Disney issued the trespass warnings and was not banned.
According to sheriff’s Cmdr. Larry Krantz, who supervised the off-duty deputies working at Downtown Disney last weekend, Disney security officers said they spoke to the football players several times during the evening.
At one point, the teens tried to enter the Pleasure Island complex of nightclubs after 11 p.m. when entry switches to those 21 and older. They declined to go to the movies as suggested and said they were at Downtown Disney to pick up girls, Krantz said he was told.
From his own observations, he said, the athletes were not aggressive or rude, but he understood that at least one made “kind of smart remarks” to Disney security.
Friends were ‘just chilling,’ teen says
Commack said he and his friends were “just chilling together” at Downtown Disney and that they thought they were followed “because we were a group of black kids they assumed were out to make trouble.”
Nugent, Vincent Williams’ stepfather, defended the players by saying they are all good kids as well as hardworking, outstanding athletes.
“Is it because they’re all over 6 feet tall and black?” asked Nugent, who is white. “I want the trespass warnings dropped so the kids can visit Disney if they want. And an apology would be nice.”