Today, Governor Ron DeSantis is proud to announce that after receiving notice of a fine from the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Special Olympics International (SOI) has agreed to honor athletes from across the nation who were unable to attend the 2022 USA Games in Orlando due to SOI's unlawful vaccine mandate, which was rescinded at the last minute. SOI agreed to send apologies to the delegates who were not able to participate at the 2022 USA Games and to 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.
"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," said Governor Ron DeSantis. "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."
"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."
Earlier this month, Governor DeSantis was joined by Special Olympians and their families to announce SOI's common-sense decision to repeal their unlawful vaccine mandate. This decision brought joy to many athletes who were able to realize their dreams to compete. At the event, State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo affirmed DOH's commitment to upholding the law and allowing Floridians to make their own medical decisions without being coerced into taking vaccines.
Over 70 Special Olympians were able to attend the 2022 USA Games in Florida with the repeal of the vaccine mandate. However, some athletes faced hurdles for attending due to the repeal of the vaccine mandate being announced so close to the commencement of the 2022 USA Games. With this announcement, athletes will have plenty of time and resources to allow them to participate in the Florida Showcase.