Special Olympics drops vaccine rule after $27M fine threat

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Ron DeSantis

FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami’s Freedom Tower, on May 9, 2022. The Special Olympics has dropped a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its games in Orlando after Florida moved to fine the organization $27.5 million for violating a state law against such rules. DeSantis, on Friday, June 3, 2022, announced that the organization had removed the requirement for its competition in the state, which is scheduled to run June 5 to June 12. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Special Olympics has dropped a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its games in Orlando after Florida moved to fine the organization $27.5 million for violating a state law against such rules.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced the organization had removed the requirement for its competition in the state, which is scheduled to run June 5 to June 12.

“In Florida, we want all of them to be able to compete. 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 or integrity,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Orlando.

The Florida health department notified the Special Olympics of the fine in a letter Thursday that said the organization would be fined $27.5 million for 5,500 violations of state law for requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination for attendees or participants.

Florida law bars businesses from requiring documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination. DeSantis has strongly opposed vaccine mandates and other virus policies endorsed by the federal government.

In a statement on its website, the Special Olympics said people who were registered but unable to participate because of the mandate can now attend.

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