Athletes from South Florida and around the globe converged in Miami this week to compete in the 2017 OutGames and try to claim glory in their respective sports.
Instead, those who made the trek to the area were greeted with an email on the first day of the games unceremoniously telling them that opening and closing receptions as well as most of the sports were cancelled due to undisclosed financial problems. Athletes who had spent weeks preparing for their respective events were left frustrated and confused after the announcement.
Chris Manning, a member of the Wilton Manors Warriors basketball team that was going to compete, was ‘livid’ with the organizers following their decision. He first got the word from a teammate who called him in tears to tell him they had cancelled the basketball portion.
“We’re all pretty devastated about it because as a team and as best friends, we all hang out and we were looking forward to this experience of taking it to the next level and competing,” Manning said. “To get that a couple of days out, when that’s all we’ve been talking about this weekend, preparing and we were meeting up today to go get outfits for the opening ceremony. This is something we were all looking forward to, it’s frustrating, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Kevin Forbes, another player on the Warriors, got the news from Manning over the phone and thought he was joking.
“I was like ‘nah, don’t play with me like that,’” Forbes said. “ I was really disappointed, this would have been the biggest stage I ever played on. I was excited for it.”
Timothy Collins, a volleyball player, got word of the cancellations from his team captain Yuri Andrei after he got home from outpatient surgery earlier in the day and later verified it on the local news. He was speechless about the move considering how many competitors flew in from abroad for the event.
“One of my first reactions was, what about all these people that came,” Collins said. “This is the World OutGames, this isn’t just national. There’s people coming from other countries, reservations for hotels, plane tickets. Some of it was really expensive to get out here and they’re not going to refund that money.”
Manning thinks that the event organizers should have had backup venues in places such as Fort Lauderdale or Miramar if they were facing potential problems.
“I think there was a lot of things the OutGames did not take into consideration and that to me is another disappointing thing,” Manning said. “In our culture alone there’s already so much division and there’s already so many people against us that of all the people you should be doing right by, it should be us and our family.”
None of the athletes interviewed had any idea if they were receiving refunds for their registration fees, which often cost around $200-350 per participant, or the tickets they bought for events. Ticketing website Live Nation has the event marked as cancelled and has announced they will issue refunds.
According to Collins, his partner Vincent Bell had trouble finding tickets for his event in the first place.
“What I found was my partner wanted to go to some of these events, and he couldn't find tickets anywhere for the past month,” Collins said. “He’s been looking at their site to look for tickets and there’s nothing available there. Ticketmaster said since the eighth (tickets were available,) but there is no link to go there.”
On Saturday though the City of Miami Beach announced that they were stepping in to attempt to reschedule some, if not all, of the sporting events.
For the Warriors, both Manning and Forbes said their team are looking at a couple of other tournaments in the future, including one in Atlanta in August, another in Minnesota in October or one on a cruise ship in January.
“We’re a family, this is not where it’s going to end,” Manning said. “The whole point was to start a basketball team for Wilton Manors and we did that, so we’re gonna continue to do that and have fun.”
Collins is not sure what his team is going to do, but thinks they may play in some North Atlantic Gay Volleyball Association events in the next few months depending on a refund.
“Even if they were planning on doing this, their website should reflect this and their plans on how people will be getting back their money” he said. “We bought tickets for the opening ceremony, so what are their plans for giving anyone any of their money back?”
SFGN reached out to the OutGames for comment on what specifically led to the cancellation of events and how they will refund participants, but have not received comment as of publication time.
The City of Miami Beach said in an emailed release on May 26 that it would have the Greater Miami Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau at the National Hotel, which serves as the headquarters of the Outgames, for the duration of the events to help people find alternative activities including discounted offers.
Below is a list of events that have been restored as of 6 p.m. Saturday, according to a Facebook post from World OutGames Miami.
The events include:
- Field Hockey tournament in the Flamingo Park soccer field on Monday, May 29 through Wednesday, May 31.
- Soccer Finals in the Flamingo Park Stadium on Friday, June 2.
- Indoor Basketball tournament to the Scott Rakow Youth Center on Sunday, May 28 through Monday, May 29.
- City staff is working to keep and manage the volleyball tournament at the 7th Street volleyball courts from Tuesday, May 30 through Friday, June 2.
In addition to the events, the city and the GMCVB have announced that they will welcome all registered athletes and their families reception on Wednesday night, May 31, at the Miami Beach Botanical garden in order to “express the true nature of Miami Beach hospitality.”
“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 of the event occurred,” the release said.