Eminently controversial Hollywood star Mel Gibson has been removed as co-grand marshal of this year’s Endymion parade, one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans during Carnival season.
The news came Sunday afternoon, just hours after he was announced for the honor, which had brought public backlash due to the filmmaker's past incidents of racism, antisemitism, and domestic violence. The stated reason for his removal, however, was parade safety.
“The Krewe of Endymion has received significant feedback about our grand marshall announcement yesterday evening. Some of this commentary included threats that cause us great concern,” said krewe president Dan Kelly in a statement.
“We will move forward with our final preparations in the coming weeks for the largest procession in Carnival.”
The nature of the alleged threats is unclear, and most public commentary on the initial announcement concerned the optics of the krewe’s second controversial pick in a row. Endymion’s celebrity grand marshal for 2022 was the Catholic shock jock Raymond Arroyo, of EWTN fame.
Gibson—known in some circles as a devout Catholic and in others as rejecting the pope—founded a sedevacantist church near Los Angeles for his family and friends in 1999. He has recently received renewed media attention for the 2022 Catholic drama “Father Stu,” and for his planned sequel to “Passion of the Christ,” one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Like many Mardi Gras krewes in New Orleans, which organize the monthslong Catholic-influenced parade series for which the city is well known, Endymion is no stranger to ethnic controversies. The city’s krewes have historically been segregated, with the official celebrations involving only White krewes until 1909, when the Black krewe of Zulu was established.
The largest and most historic groups also excluded Italians and Jews, until a city ordinance in 1991 gave krewes an ultimatum to either end discrimination or be denied parade permits. Endymion, founded in 1967, was one of several krewes to comply, while three of the four oldest krewes ceased parading. (Another, the all-female Mystic Krewe of Nyx—once regarded among the largest in the city—has recently lost most of its membership following racist social media posts from its top brass.)
Though Endymion named their first African-American parade king in 2012, controversy dogged the organization once again six years later, when parade attendees reported receiving Blackface figurines as traditional Mardi Gras “throws.”
Categorized as a “super krewe” since the 1970s, Endymion organizes one of the season’s most well-attended parades, taking place in February and attracting celebrities and prominent local figures for its traditional route through the Mid-City neighborhood.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parade ran a city-mandated abbreviated route in 2022, sparking ire among many of the krewe’s leaders and fans. In fall 2022, Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced that 2023 Mardi Gras parades would continue on modified routes, but that decision was later reversed—just days before the announcement of Gibson as Endymion’s co-grand marshal.
Neither Cantrell nor Gibson has commented publicly on the actor’s removal from this year’s celebration, which is scheduled for February 18.
A group of national and local Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement on Sunday condemning Endymion’s choice of Gibson, and also praising the krewe for his removal.
“While the actor has made half-hearted attempts to apologize for his remarks over the years, there is still a great deal of pain associated with his name and deep wounds in the Jewish community from those controversies, which may never heal,” they said.
“Although we are relieved he is no longer riding, we hope the Endymion leadership will take the opportunity to learn why the selection of Mel Gibson caused such pain and disappointment to the Jewish community as well as the marginalized communities he has harmed in the past.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).