World OutGames sporting events canceled amid financial turmoil
A class-action lawsuit was just filed by a participant in last year’s disastrous World Outgames, an event that was supposed to feature thousands of LGBTQ athletes from throughout the world competing in Olympics-style South Florida competitions.
By the time many of the participants arrived, they quickly learned organizers were unprepared and canceled most of the Memorial Day week events, including the opening and closing ceremonies.
In addition to a police investigation that led to no arrest and an audit by the city of Miami Beach that showed organizers didn’t raise enough money, the lawsuit was filed last week in a federal court in Miami.
The plaintiff is a Los Angeles TV producer who says he spent $4,100 to attend the games, including airfare, hotel bills and a $250-registration fee, and used up a week’s vacation from work — all for naught.
According to his complaint, 45-year-old Rodney Ferrell signed up for the games after seeing ads on the web promising 15,000 athletes from more than 50 countries concerts, speakers and “top-notch competition as well as comradery (sic) and friendship.”
There was also supposed to be an opening ceremony featuring national gay activist Omar Sharif Jr., a concert by Tito Puente Jr. and other goodies. The venues for the doomed events included Marlins Park and The Fillmore Miami Beach.
Ferrell was registered to play in the tennis tournament but discovered once he arrived in South Beach that it, too, was canceled.
“My client was one of several thousand people who registered, trained and spent money to compete in the games,” said Marc Wites, the Lighthouse Point attorney who represents Ferrell.
He said he filed the action as a class-action lawsuit but a judge has yet to certify it as such.
“My client felt the lawsuit was the right thing to do because it was exceedingly unfair for organizers to let people prepare themselves while it was obvious the event was not going to happen,” Wites said.
The lawsuit shows organizers failed to reimburse participants for registration fees and other expenses.
It also describes “registered athletes milling about the host hotel, the event sites and registration desk dumbfounded that an event promoted to be beginning May 26, 2017, was instead being canceled May 26, 2017.”
Defendants include companies World Outgames Miami 2017 and Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, and event CEO Ivan Cano and COO Keith Hart.
They have yet to be served with the federal complaint. Cano didn’t respond to a message requesting comment and Hart’s phone mailbox is full and isn’t accepting messages.
Both sports groups named as defendants have taken down their websites.
While the lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $5 million, it’s clear from the Miami Beach audit there’s likely no money left for jilted participants.
The audit showed the event was $1 million short of its $2.3 million-budget.
“We don’t know that there’s no money there,” said attorney Wites. “There may be insurance money and other assets. We’ll explore this as part of the lawsuit.”