By Lydia Nusbaum
June 23, 2022 Updated 11:54 A.M. ET
TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Special Olympics International will apologize and financially sponsor athletes who did not attend the 2022 USA Games in Orlando after the group removed its vaccine mandate last minute.
Special Olympics International rescinded its vaccine mandate in early June after the DeSantis Administration said it would fine the group $27.5 million for violating state law and requiring athletes to provide proof of the COVID vaccine before competing.
However, not all athletes could compete in the Orlando because the vaccine mandate was rescinded mere days before the games, giving them little time to travel.
“It is wrong to discriminate against athletes with disabilities due to COVID vaccines. Florida wants everybody to have opportunities to make the most of their God-given abilities and to be able to compete in athletics,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.
“Allowing athletes to compete in the USA Games earlier this month was a step in the right direction. Now, Special Olympics Florida is ready to welcome athletes who were not able to compete in our games, thanks to a guarantee of financial assistance from the international organization.”
DeSantis said Special Olympics International will send out apologies and financially sponsor athletes with travel, lodging, and uniforms to attend the All-Star Champions Showcase and 50th Anniversary Games, hosted by Special Olympics Florida, this October.
“A number of Special Olympic athletes were unfortunately deprived of competing over the summer due to Special Olympics International’s unlawful vaccine mandate,” said Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary and Special Olympics Florida Board Member Eric Hall.
“Although I am thankful some athletes were able to compete over the summer, I am incredibly excited to have the chance to watch ALL athletes compete this Fall. Make no mistake about it, the amazing leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis and his refusal to bow to corporate activism is the only reason all of our athletes are now being given a fair and honest chance to compete and show off their amazing skills and talents.”
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