Report: Florida threatened Special Olympics with $27.5M in fines over vaccine mandate

The state of Florida threatened the Special Olympics with millions of dollars worth of fines over a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. They rescinded the mandate.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The state of Florida threatened the Special Olympics with $27.5 million worth of fines over a COVID-19 vaccine requirement at its games in Orlando this weekend, ABC News reports.

ABC News reporter Jay O’Brien, who broke the news of the state’s intention to fine the organization, tweeted Friday morning that the organization rescinded the mandate late Thursday.

State officials said the vaccine rule was against the law, and it disqualified Special Olympics athletes from competing based on their vaccine status, O’Brien tweeted.

The DOH letter stated the Special Olympics was violating Florida law by requiring proof of vaccination from more than 5,000 individuals.

The Special Olympics then announced its lifting of the requirement, which stated: “We don’t want to fight. We want to play.”

The letter to Special Olympics International came from the Florida Health Department with a Re: Notice of Violations of Sec. 381.00316(1) of the Florida Statute. The statute, which addresses COVID-19 vaccine documentation, states that a business entity . . . may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or postinfection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, addressed the issue in a news conference Friday.

“This will be a relief to a lot of the athletes,” he said. “There’s a significant number of them who were in limbo up until this week.”

About the Authors:

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.