(CN) – A class action claims the organizers of the World OutGames scammed prospective participants by cancelling the event and pocketing money already paid for registrations.
The World OutGames is a sporting and cultural event started in 2006. It brings together athletes and artists from all over the world, and it’s open to anybody who wishes to participate regardless of their sexual orientation.
In a federal complaint filed Monday in Miami, lead plaintiff Rodney Ferrell claims that the 2017 World Outgames were promoted as a “celebration of sporting competition, cultural sensitivity, harmony and community” that would feature 15,000 athletes in Miami competing in different sports.
The registration packages had a cost of approximately $250.
“Delegations representing different geographic regions were to travel to Florida to compete in this Olympic-style sporting event,” Ferrell says.
Ferrell, who is represented by Marc Wites, says that the co-defendants, Miami Beach- Miami LGBT Sports & Cultural League Inc. and The Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association International, also promised a three- day global conference on human rights, and a cultural program featuring artists from around the world would be held.
The 2017 World Outgames were scheduled to take place from May 26 – June 4, 2017, the complaint says.
But Ferrell claims that prior to the event, only about 2,000 athletes had registered, and that on the opening day of the games organizers abruptly cancelled all events except for soccer, aquatics and country and western dancing.
These cancellations occurred despite repeated assurances that the games would go forward, the complaint says.
“None of the defendants had the capacity to host, organize, or oversee the OutGames. Each of the defendants knew that the OutGames lacked the financial capacity to cause the even to proceed,” the complaint says.
Ferrell alleges that the Miami Outgames organizers never paid a $5,000 special event deposit required by the City of Miami Beach, and that they also failed to submit proof of insurance and permit applications before the event.
GLISA, who had successfully run the World Outgames in 2006, 2009 and 2013, released a statement on June 9, 2017, apologizing for the cancellation of the scheduled events, and said that it was waiting for an explanation from OutGames Corp. and the other organizers regarding the failure of the competition.
But the complaint claims that when OutGames Corp. fell behind in its payments in connection with the 2017 OutGames, GLISA did nothing to address the issue, and instead continued to market and promote the Miami OutGames.
Ferrell claims Ivan Cano and Keith Hart, the spokesperson and organizer, respectively, of the Miami OutGames, knew long before the cancellation that the event could not go forward, yet they withheld the information and benefited from the registration fees and other monies paid by the attendees.
He goes on to claim that the two men pocketed over $160,000 from OutGames Corp. as reimbursement for purported expenditures that were never documented.
Steven Adkins, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber’s foundation acted as a fiscal agent for the Miami Beach-Miami LGBT Sports & Cultural League, which was formed to create the OutGames in Miami, but that the foundation resigned as their agent after the games were cancelled.
“I personally stepped in to assist in picking up the pieces when the Games’ cancellation was announced,” said Adkins.
Ferrell says as a result of these alleged acts, he and thousands of other competitors were stuck with non-refundable plane tickets, hotel reservations, vacation days and travel expenses due to the organizers misrepresentations.
He is seeking compensatory damages on claims of unjust enrichment, unfair business practices and breach of contract.
GLISA and the OutGames Corp. aka Miami OutGames do not have working websites, and their phone numbers are currently disconnected.