DeSantis Admin Strikes Back at Critics After Florida Stands Up Against Special Olympics Vaccine Mandate

June 16, 2022 Updated 4:52 PM ET

DeSantis Camp 1

June 16, 2022  Updated 4:52 P.M. ET

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Press Secretary called out editorial pieces for attacking the Governor after the administration pressured Special Olympics International with a $27.5 million fine for violating state law. 

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games took place in Orlando in June. Special Olympics International originally required athletes to receive the Covid vaccine, however, Florida law prohibits vaccine mandates. 

“Let them compete,” DeSantis said. “We want everybody to be able to compete.” 

Since the news, editorials have popped up calling the Governor’s actions “cruelty” and “awful.” But the DeSantis administration said it was following state law.

“In Florida, state law prohibits vaccine passports and mandates, but Special Olympics International had attempted to enact an unscientific and illegal policy requiring all athletes to show proof of vaccination for covid,” Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said.

Special Olympics Drops Vaccine Mandate After Pressure From DeSantis Admin: ‘Let Them Compete’

The administration highlighted the articles below:

“It is true that DeSantis’ cruelty and white nationalist-adjacency go beyond attacking the vulnerable. He attacks corporations and Major League Baseball teams. His actions, however, involving the Special Olympics are particularly awful,” USA Today said.

“Several questions need to be answered about this decision, and several lessons to be drawn from it. The latter all point to the sheer thuggishness of the DeSantis administration, but also to why the Special Olympics organization caved to DeSantis so meekly,” Los Angeles Times said.

“Why would DeSantis threaten to fine the Special Olympics $27.5 million for doing what the majority of those reading this column have already done? To appeal to the anti-vax mob, that’s why. Just when you think DeSantis has hit bottom, demonizing gays (his “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and the Rays (“Communist Progressives!) the trap door opens. DeSantis’ threat caused the Special Olympics to drop the vaccine mandate at the last minute, despite the fact that statistics clearly show getting participants vaccinated is likely to save lives,” Palm Beach Post said.

“Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and his administration have used their authority to essentially punish organizations he deems to be insufficiently conservative. One of their latest targets is the Special Olympics,” Rolling Stone said. 

At the Governor’s June 3rd press conference, athletes and families of athletes shared their appreciation for the dropped mandate. 

Port St. Lucie resident Frank Vernoia has been competing since he was eight years old but was told he could not compete in the 2022 USA Games. Vernoia, who has a learning disability and epilepsy, decided not to receive the vaccine.

“I want to thank all of them for fighting and standing up for us,” Vernoia said. “This has been a big long-term goal for me and being told that I was good to go in February and just a couple of months ago being told no and being threatened with emails after email that I would have to prove vaccination to go.”

Special Olympics International originally required about 5,000 people to provide vaccination proof. Special Olympics International dropped the vaccine mandate mere days before the event took place. 

“That wasn’t us like singling them out. That’s just how the law operates,” DeSantis said. “You had this situation where it wasn’t a good look to be excluding these athletes, but then they would also face financial penalties under our law, which has been on the books for quite some time now.”

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