The Sarasota Slam, one of the region’s most popular offshore fishing tournaments, has been sucked into the orbit of controversy involving three men dragging a shark behind a boat and has banned all three from competing in this year’s Slam.
The now-viral video, which first surfaced July 24, shows three men dragging a shark behind their boat at high speeds and has drawn public outcry throughout the nation. One of the men in the video was wearing a Sarasota Slam T-shirt.
Both the tournament and the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association (MSBIA), the organization that operates the Slam, made statements on Facebook last week to condemn the anglers and announce they had been banned from this year’s tournament.
“We the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, and our fishing tournament Sarasota Slam, has been implicated by association with a now infamous video of three young men dragging a shark by boat,” read the post. “Our association has been under attack via social media, emails and phone calls from the public, and from media outlets, both local and beyond. We want the public to know that the MSBIA does not stand for nor condones this type of behavior and has been swift in its actions in banning these young men from participating in the Sarasota Slam.”
The statement also was posted to the MSBIA and Sarasota Slam websites.
The Sarasota Slam, which began Tuesday off the coast of Sarasota, wraps up with a weigh-in Saturday at Marina Jack. It’s the second leg of the annual Florida West Coast Bluewater Series, a triple crown event with other tournaments in Palmetto and Madeira Beach. The Crosthwait Extreme Billfish Classic, the Palmetto tournament, was held last month at Bradenton Yacht Club. The Old Salt Loop Tournament, the final leg in Madeira Beach, is scheduled for Aug. 15-19.
The Sarasota Slam addressed the video on Facebook on July 25, condemning the “despicable behavior” of the three anglers.
“Rule No. 1 of the Slam has and always will be: ‘Sarasota Slam expects the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship from its participants,’ ” the Slam’s Facebook post read. “Their names were already given to the proper authorities when we learned of the video.”
The video surfaced through Instagram, which has led to an ongoing Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigation, planned protests and a letter from Gov. Rick Scott, who called the video “incredibly disturbing.”
“Each and every member of our agency is disgusted by the behavior shown in the video,” FWC chairman Brian Yablonski said in a statement. “Florida is a sportsman’s destination and there is no place in Florida for these kinds of callous acts.”