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

June 3, 2022 Updated 11:38 AM ET

DeSantis Camp 1

June 3, 2022     Updated 11:34 A.M. ET

ORLANDO (FLV) –  Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that special olympic athletes without the coronavirus vaccine can now compete after Special Olympics International dropped its vaccine mandate Thursday. 

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

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will take place in Orlando in June.

Special Olympics International originally told athletes they could not compete in Orlando if they did not receive the COVID vaccine. However, DeSantis said this requirement violated Florida law.

“We do not think it’s fair or just to be marginalizing some of these athletes based on a decision that has no bearing on their ability to compete with honor and integrity,” DeSantis said. 

The DeSantis Administration said it worked for six months to convince Special Olympics International to drop the vaccine mandate. The Governor said some athletes will not be able to compete because the group nixed the mandate two days prior to the games.

“This was important that we engaged in this. I wish it would have been resolved earlier but I do think that this is something that is very very important,” DeSantis said. “To do it to these special olympians to me was just totally wrong.”

The DeSantis Administration reportedly threatened Special Olympics International (SOI) Thursday with a $27.5 million fine if athletes were required to provide proof of vaccination in order to compete. The SOI originally required 5,000 people to provide vaccination proof.

“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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