UPDATED: Chaos Ensues After World OutGames Cancelled, then Rescheduled

The Wilton Warriors, a team originally set to play basketball during the World OutGames. Photo by Carina Mask.

Updates:

  • Live Nation is canceling and refunding OutGames tickets.
  • An Adidas spokesperson has responded to our request for comment.
  • The City of Miami Beach has released a statement on the cancellations.
  • The Miami Beach Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office are opening a fraud investigation.
  • The City of Miami Beach is working to restore many of the sporting events.

  

The board of directors of World OutGames Miami canceled the opening and closing ceremonies and the majority of the sports due to “financial challenges” on Friday, May 25, the first day of the 10-day international LGBT human rights, culture and sports event. 

But on Saturday the City of Miami Beach announced they were stepping in to reschedule many of the events. Separately the Miami Beach Police and the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office announced on Friday they're launching an investigation into the "potential misappropriation of funds."  

On Friday the board of the World OutGames released this statement: “It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel its sports programming and Opening and Closing Ceremony with the exception of soccer, aquatics and country western dance. The Human Rights Conference and cultural programs will continue as planned. We thank everyone who has supported the effort and apologize to those who will be impacted by this difficult decision.”

That one statement was it. 

Their website, social media accounts, and executive director went silent – leaving the organization and multiple events in a state of chaos and confusion. 

The City, though, quickly stepped in to fill the void left by OutGames organizers. 

"In the last 24 hours alone, the Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department was able to confirm and staff the Field Hockey tournament in the Flamingo Park soccer; the Soccer Finals in the Flamingo Park Stadium on Friday, June 2; and relocated the Indoor Basketball tournament…," the City wrote.

They also worked with the Lummus Park volleyball community to keep the volleyball tournament up and running May 30 through June 2. On May 31 the city, and Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau will host a reception at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

Steven Adkins, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, became one of the leading forces behind putting the games back together again and salvaging many of the events. 

“We are doing our best under trying circumstances and, the community is really rallying around these games to see that the athletes have events to participate in,” he said. “To coin [Miami Beach City Manager] Jimmy Morales comment to me, we have made lemonade out of lemons to the degree possible and, have made every effort to see that the World OutGames attendees enjoy the hospitality of South Florida.”

He pointed out the people and organizations working together to make the best out of World OutGames, including the City of Miami Beach, The Pride Collective Group of LGBT organizations in Miami-Dade and Broward, the bar group in Miami Beach including Score, The Palace, Twist, Pride Fort Lauderdale President Miik Martell, Matt Silver, Jeo, and Out Miami Foundation. He also brought attention to Carol Coombs and her team, Lynare Robbins, George Neary and the GMCVB for maintaining the Human Rights Conference as planned.

Still, registered athletes were unhappy at OutGames’s decision to cancel the sports on the first day.

“For the board to cancel everything on the first day of the actual event is unforgivable,” Colin Bodels, an athlete originally registered to race in the half marathon, told SFGN in an email. “I have friends in the air over the Atlantic flying in from Sweden, Belgium, the UK and elsewhere. This is unconscionable and smacks of not (disorganization) but greed and reading more and more like a scam to get money. I'm looking forward to seeing/hearing how they respond to requests for refunds or fraud.”

The OutGames has a number of sponsors, including The City of Miami Beach, Adidas, Florida Sports Foundation, Coca-Cola and more. One of these sponsors, The City of Miami Beach, has stepped up to restore OutGames sports events.

In another release, the city revealed the Miami Beach Police and the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office launched a fraud investigation into the OutGames.

"Due to the potential misappropriation of funds, the Miami Beach Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office have conferred and are jointly opening a fraud investigation," said City Spokesperson Melissa Berthier in the release.

The city previously released a statement on the cancellation.

"City staff has worked consistently for the past several months to assist the event producers with special events planning and permitting; fundraising efforts; relocating events to low or no cost venues; assisting with local partners to provide support and access; and providing financial support to cover police staffing costs," the statement read. "As a lead sponsor of the event, the City also waived all related special event and permitting fees for this event and provided cash sponsorship to the OutGames."

The statement continued: "We remain very committed to our LGBTQ community, and the City of Miami Beach will do everything within our power to ascertain where the failures within the event organization occurred."

People have taken to the organization’s Facebook page to complain about the loss of money spent on travel, uniforms, as well as loss of wages and vacation time. Many are expecting their registration fees refunded.

“This is crazy, you knew this weeks ago and we could have made alternative arrangements... at the moment we’re in the middle of our flight from Europe... this is a disgrace!” one person wrote.

Other users critiqued the games, comparing their financial challenges to those of the Gay Games, a separate LGBT sporting event that takes place every 4 years as well.

“This organization needs to combine with Gay Games instead of competing for financial support,” another user said. “Without doing so, both entities compete to see who can put on the most unimpressive event. This is an embarrassment for the entire gay community.”

According to the Miami Herald, the city was an entity that would have granted many of the permits to OutGames. The newspaper reports that OutGames had not paid a deposit for their permits.

Live Nation has marked the OutGames as canceled on their website. They are granting refunds at "point of purchase only" and will give refunds automatically to all internet and phone orders.

SFGN has reached out to World OutGames for comment.

Days after the cancellation volunteers took over the OutGames Facebook page to be able to communicate with athletes and supporters.

“This and future posts until further notice will be made by community volunteers who are not affiliated with World Out Games,” the post reads. 

At the time of publication, OutGames.org has not yet announced the status of the games.

 

This story is ongoing and may be updated.  


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