Performers drop out of SeaWorld event following fan activism

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ORLANDO, Fla. - There is some backlash Monday for SeaWorld, following the release of the controversial film "Blackfish," which documents the park's treatment of killer whales.

A third artist has pulled out of an upcoming concert series after fans and activists convinced big-time performers to boycott the theme park.

Channel 9's Jeff Deal spoke with an expert to find out what it could mean for SeaWorld's future.

A theme park expert said what's astounding is protestors didn't just use social media to convince individuals not to buy tickets, they went after performers and convinced them to pull the plug.

At SeaWorld Orlando, Bands, Brew, and BBQ is a popular event that brings in big-name performers.

Dr. Rick Foglesong, a Rollins College professor who has studied theme parks said the problem is "Blackfish" criticizes SeaWorld's treatment of killer whales and tells the story of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau.

"Clearly SeaWorld has a public relations problem," Foglesong said.

That film has prompted online petitions on Change.org.

Fans and activists have already convinced performers Willie Nelson, Barenaked Ladies and Heart to pull out of their scheduled concerts at SeaWorld.

One fan wrote: "Willie please don't support SeaWorld cruelty!"

SeaWorld has said it uses animals to inspire and educate people and pointed out what the film doesn't show is how the company uses its resources to rescue injured animals.

Foglesong said SeaWorld is still in a tricky situation because the killer whale has been SeaWorld's biggest star.

There are questions about how the animals are treated and he believes this could impact SeaWorld's bottom line.

"There's been nothing quite like this that focuses on the star performer. It's as if Walt Disney was accused of abusing Mickey Mouse," Foglesong said.

There are still several Change.org petitions online targeting other bands and performers who are set to play here.

Petitioners are hoping those acts will pull out, too.