An interpreter for the Broadway show “The Lion King” is suing over his termination, claiming that he was fired because of his skin color.
The American Sign Language interpreter, Keith Wann, is a white man. He was asked to substitute for a “BIPOC” interpreter, but then got an email essentially telling him he could no longer do the job.
He claimed that he got an email from the Theatre Development Fund accessibility programs on April 2 saying that “it’s no longer appropriate to have White interpreters represent Black characters for ASL Broadway shows.”
Wann and his lawyer, Josh Pepper, spoke to “Fox & Friends” on Monday about the lawsuit.
Wann said he “just looked at it and said, ‘What they’re saying here — I think this is illegal,’” which is when he spoke to the attorney.
Pepper explained, “It’s pretty straightforward. They pretty much admit in their email that they are retracting the offer because he is white.”
He explained a “Reconstruction Era statute” which states “people have the right to contract regardless of their race.”
He said it “was intended to protect the former slaves — to protect black people from not being able to have their businesses.” In 1976, he noted, the Supreme Court decided that white people could also bring lawsuits under the statute in a decision that was penned by Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice.
“We think it’s a strong case that they refused to give him this job because he is white,” Pepper said. “The statute says you can’t do that, and so we want to recover the money that he would’ve been paid.”
Last week, as the New York Post reported, Wann filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Theatre Development Fund, as well as its director of accessibility programs, Lisa Carling.
Wann received an email from Carling requesting that he and another interpreter exit the show, noting “the current social climate.”
“With great embarrassment and apologies, I’m asking you both to please back out of interpreting the show for us on Sunday, April 24,” Carling wrote, according to the Post. “I don’t see any other way out of this. It seems like the best solution.”
Carling made the request because of the director of ASL for “The Lion King,” who told her to fire all interpreters who weren’t black, per an additional email obtained by the Post and discussed in the lawsuit.
“The majority of the characters in the Lion King are black actors and the content takes place in Africa,” Guy wrote to Carling on April 1. “Keith Wann, though an amazing ASL performer, is not a black person and therefore should not be representing Lion King.”
“Wrong is wrong. … The decision they said in the email was wrong,” Wann said on Fox. “If you insert a different color, if you insert a different race, it is wrong. You are not allowed to fire somebody because of that reason.”
He also said there is “some false narrative out there that I’m trying to push my way into this space that is not my space. There was already a team established. They were asking me to come in and help them out…”