Jock Talk: Blame all around as lawsuit roils Outgames
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The final chapters of the Outgames legacy will be recorded not by athletes on playing fields, nor by conference rooms full of academic activists wielding resolutions and declarations, but by courtrooms of attorneys and litigants, struggling to find some meaning and some justice in the rubble of the ruins.
A class action suit filed recently in federal court in Miami representing athletes who were stuck with expenses after the last-minute cancellation of the Miami Outgames seeks $5 million (http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=73389), but it is uncertain what assets, if any, are held by the Miami host organization; by Ivan Cano and Keith Hart, the president and treasurer for Miami Outgames, respectively; or by the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, which sold the brand license to Outgames organizers. All have virtually disappeared from social media and the GLISA website has been abandoned. GLISA's only substantial income came from licensing fees, but Miami failed to make all of its license payments. And when GLISA was engaged in talks with the Federation of Gay Games about a possible merger of their global quadrennial events, GLISA pointedly refused to have evaluation of its assets as a condition for negotiations.
What is certain to be documented in the flood of affidavits and testimony is the overwhelming paucity of expertise, accountability, and oversight provided by GLISA and Miami Outgames - expertise, accountability, and oversight that could have provided registered athletes with some kind of assurance but that was never part of the game plan for anyone involved in staging these Outgames.
The money-grubbing fiasco known as the Miami Outgames depended on the failure of successive institutions to provide any safeguards or checks. A whistleblower anywhere along the way could have stopped the whole mess in its tracks.
• GLISA could have publicized that the Outgames had defaulted on its license payments. Instead GLISA kept silent and complicit, hoping to salvage whatever partial payments Miami might cough up and to keep its brand alive long enough to land a bidder (sucker) for 2021. So much for the role of human rights defender GLISA portrayed itself as.
• Any number of Miami Beach municipal committees could have informed the press and the city commission that organizers were refusing to provide timely, accurate, and complete answers for any of their questions and were failing to file required financial reports. The first such failure should have triggered warnings; the second failure should have forfeited any municipal assistance. Instead, those committees failed to safeguard the interests of local taxpayers footing the bills. They kept postponing action month after month, effectively kicking the can so far down the road they eventually lost their way.
• The original Miami bid organization could have done a better job of researching the product on which it was bidding. It later claimed its registration projection of 15,000 was based on numbers provided by GLISA (in this case, the used car salesman) and accepted them without question. Cursory research would have shown those numbers to be rooted in fantasy and the projections never attained by any LGBT sports event - most especially not by any Outgames - and that in fact every successive Outgames has been smaller than the one that preceded it. It could have restricted its sports offerings to those sports with governing LGBT organizations who agreed to run the tournaments and help market the sports. It did none of those things.
• Miami organizers improperly used the nonprofit license of the local tourism group. Two revelations are contained in that statement: the first, that Miami Outgames failed to deliver on its promise to obtain nonprofit status; and the second, that GLISA did not have such status. But this fact was never made clear. That led donors and sponsors to incorrectly believe their contributions were tax-exempt, and that the money would be safeguarded by the regulations a nonprofit organization must follow.
• The ever-changing Outgames board of directors could have actually directed instead of blindly accepting the actions of its officers. This was a group that was supposed to provide oversight but provided nothing but rubber stamps. The directors were told nonprofit status would be sought, they were told they would be given regular accurate and comprehensive reports, they were told much and they could have asked more. Instead they accepted delays and delays upon delays, they did not provide oversight, and individual directors, rather than alerting the city or the public, just resigned and said nothing.
• Collectively, LGBT news media and local mainstream media failed to ask even the most basic of questions they should have asked any organization or event with even a pretense of being legitimate. Except for one article in outsports.com a year ago and a few articles on ebar.com the last two years, the sparse coverage provided in news media consisted of verbatim re-publication of fluffy news releases and photo coverage of a handful of promotional fund-easing events. Events, by the way, that actually lost money. Those puff pieces and fabulous photo spreads did not expose the sham - they enabled it.
Put it all together and the World Outgames were a class action suit waiting to happen. And who knows - maybe a criminal case or two.
Eleven years ago, the Montreal Outgames ended up in bankruptcy court, having lost millions in sponsorships and registration fees while lying to the public, to sponsors, to athletes, to vendors, to governments. What's novel about the Miami Outgames is that anyone could be surprised that once again, organizers are in court. This was never about sports, and it was not really about human rights. It was about exploiting personal contacts and naive idealism to fleece individuals. And that is the Outgames legacy, captured one final time in courtrooms.
Sin City agreement reached
Litigants fighting over ownership rights of the multi-sport festival Sin City Shootout told a federal court Friday, March 2 that they have reached a settlement in their dispute.
The Greater Los Angeles Softball Association and former Sin City tournament director Eric Ryan filed papers in district court telling Justice John F. Walter saying they had reached agreement on all aspects of the suit through court-ordered mediation and are in the process of executing the terms of their agreement. They asked the court to retain jurisdiction until it has been notified that the agreement has been satisfactorily executed.