Special Olympics reverses vaccine mandate after DeSantis threatens $27m fine

Mandates "marginalize disfavored people," governor argues

The Special Olympics hastily dropped its vaccine requirement for competitors late this week after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened a massive fine over the organization's mandate. 

Florida earlier this week had informed Special Olympics International that the organization “violated [Florida law] by requiring proof certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery from 5,500 individuals” in order for those individuals to participate in the games."

The DeSantis administration said it was empowered to charge $5,000 for each individual in question, resulting in a fine of $27,500,000. 

The organization subsequently announced that it is "lifting the vaccine requirement for delegation members attending the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games being held in Orlando, Florida."

"Delegates who were registered for the Games but were unable to participate due to the prior vaccine requirement, now have the option to attend," the organization continued, stating that it was "making best efforts to accommodate eligible individuals."

DeSantis cheered the decision on Friday, though he acknowledged that, for some athletes, the damage was already done. 

“This will be a relief to a lot of the athletes, although I think we do have to acknowledge that because it’s coming so late, some of the athletes will not be able to make the arrangements to be able to come and participate," he said.