A Mummers brigade has been disqualified from the annual Philadelphia New Year’s Day parade competition and may face additional penalties after city staffers monitoring the parade route observed a marcher with the Froggy Carr Wench Brigade wearing black face paint.

In a tweet, Mayor Jim Kenney condemned “the use of blackface by someone affiliated with Froggy Carr,” calling it “abhorrent and unacceptable.”

“This selfish, hateful behavior has no place in the Mummers, or the city itself,” Kenney wrote on Twitter. “We must be better than this. The group was disqualified and we will be exploring additional penalties.”

According to city spokesperson Lauren Cox, Kenney’s remarks referenced a marcher with Froggy Carr, whom city staffers observed along the parade route and whose photograph was also widely circulated on Twitter in a now-private tweet.

A Mummers spokesperson referred all comments to the city.

Strutting down Broad Street to the theme “Frogs Getting Gritty With It” — an homage to the Flyers’ famed mascot — several members of the group were seen wearing variations of face paint in the Flyers’ colors of black, orange, and white.

Most sported half-black, half-orange face-paint designs, while at least two wore mostly black paint. Inquirer sportswriter Ed Barkowitz marches with Froggy Carr. He said that although there are about 800 people who march with the club, there are only 120 members. Barkowitz said his face was painted white with a tinge of orange.

Members of Froggy Carr strut in front of City Hall during the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Members of Froggy Carr strut in front of City Hall during the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 2020.

Wearing all-black face paint with a small orange dot on his chin, Froggy Carr marcher Phil Colangelo, 33, of South Philly, said his costume was “not blackface.”

"I put a little orange on there and then some black. I was going for the warrior look,” he said.

“It’s not racist,” he said, adding that he was trying to mimic Gritty. Colangelo carried a flag through the parade that read, “Don’t tread on me."

When asked to explain the meaning of the flag, he said, “It’s the first battle flag in America. It’s still flown today during military war games.”

Phil Colangelo, 33, of South Philadelphia, at the 2020 Mummers Parade.
Barbara Laker
Phil Colangelo, 33, of South Philadelphia, at the 2020 Mummers Parade.

Other marchers with Froggy Carr echoed Colangelo’s sentiments that their black and orange face paint was only intended to match their costumes.

“Oh, blackface and all that, it ain’t about that,” Mummer Mike Tomaszwski told CBS3, wearing a Gritty-themed Froggy Carr costume, his face painted all black. “Why not? I know it’s a shame to be white in Philly right now.”

“Given the choice to use orange, white, or black face paint — or any combination of the three — this individual chose to do a full face of black paint,” Cox told The Inquirer. “In 2020, there is no excuse for not understanding why that is a problem. It is blackface, plain and simple.”

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke tweeted on Wednesday evening that “the display of blackface today during the #MummersParade by several people associated with Froggy Carr must be condemned in the strongest possible way. There is utterly no place for this kind of reprehensible behavior in Philadelphia or anywhere in America.”

Philadelphia banned blackface, which has roots in minstrelsy, from the parade in 1963. Racist and transphobic performances have also figured into previous iterations of the 120-year-old New Year’s Day tradition.

In recent years, city officials have required racial-sensitivity training for some Mummers and have reviewed parade plans, though they say it’s up to Mummers leaders to monitor groups on parade day to ensure that participants act in a nondiscriminatory manner.

At a briefing on Monday, Billy Penn reported that city officials requested Mummers judges to “be nicer” to the groups and to “stop making fun of minorities, OK?”

“Our diversity is one of Philadelphia’s greatest strengths, and we should be embracing that,” Cox told The Inquirer, “not alienating our fellow Philadelphians or others who have gathered to enjoy this tradition in our city.”