Seafair Pirates, accused of targeting women and showing up drunk, no longer welcome at some festivals

Four former members of the Seafair Pirates say they have left the group due to what they described as a growing emphasis on drinking alcohol and targeting women. Five organizations have suspended the pirates or disassociated from them because of problematic behavior.

The Seafair Pirates, Seattle’s beloved rogues, have sometimes acted the part too well.

A fixture on the summer parade circuit since their inception in 1949, the Pirates have spent the past seven decades alternately entertaining and frustrating the masses. The Pirates of old came under fire throughout the 1960s and ’70s for piratical behavior — shackling a woman to a hotel bed, faux kidnappings and general alcohol-induced misbehavior — that led to a four-year ban from Seafair events and a rebranding effort.

In later years, they continued to update their methods to keep pace with Seattle’s evolving standards of decency. They focused less on women and more on entertaining children, and spent less time drinking and more time at charity events.

But there are signs the organization has slid back toward its rowdier roots in recent years. Four former pirates — among them two former captains — said they have left the group due to what they described as a growing emphasis on drinking alcohol and targeting women. Five organizations have suspended the pirates or disassociated with them because of problematic behavior. In April, one of the pirates was cited for fourth-degree assault after forcibly kissing a woman at an event in Puyallup.

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“We’ve seen the Pirate organization evolve, or devolve, and it hasn’t been a great mix for our family audience,” said Tim Kuniholm, the director of public affairs at the Seattle Aquarium, one of the locations that is no longer inviting the Pirates to events. “In the last few years, there’s been more open drinking in public and interactions with our volunteers and folks here that are inappropriate.”

Current Pirates President Daniel Sullivan said the group hasn’t had any complaints “for a long time” and that The Seattle Times was not the first to attempt to “besmirch” the group’s name.

“We are an outstanding group of men who do great work in our community, we have tremendous support and after almost 70 years, there’s a lot of credibility there,” he wrote in an email to The Times.

At gatherings and parades, the pirates have long…

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