Ticket purchasers were alerted July 30 that the red-carpet event was canceled due to "unanticipated events" — just days after connections emerged online between a cast member and potential animal abusers.
The red-carpet event for the premiere of “Siesta Key” was canceled Sunday after nearly a week of outcry online over what critics called animal cruelty by friends of some cast members.
Those who purchased tickets online to the premiere event, previously scheduled for July 31, received an email from Beth Kompothecras, the event organizer, mother of a cast member and wife of 1-800-ASK-GARY founder Gary Kompothecras.
“Due to unanticipated events, we have decided to cancel the private screening of “Siesta Key,” the email stated. All ticket holders were promised a refund.
A protest planned for the premiere has been also been canceled.
When asked for comment, Gary Kompothecras said he didn’t want to speak about the reasons behind the cancellation.
“We’re under a media lockdown right now,” he said. “We’re going to wait until after the show airs. Let these people see everything, and then we’ll comment.”
Animal cruelty allegations
The event cancellation comes after days of commenters online decrying the show for cast members’ potential connections to young men seen in at least one controversial video.
A video surfaced a week ago of at least four young men dragging a shark behind a speeding boat. The shark was being beaten by the waves; it was unclear if it was alive or dead.
What ensued was a hunt for the men’s identities. As the Florida Wildlife Commission began an investigation, members of the public searched online for their own answers about the identities of the men, which led to more and more images and videos showcasing potential animal cruelty being posted publicly on personal social media accounts and in the comments of news stories.
Some of the images and videos included young men shooting fish with guns, and a young man holding what appeared to be a dead dog.
Though the FWC wouldn’t comment on the men’s identities, on social media it came to light that Alex Kompothecras, the proclaimed “King of Siesta Key” and a star of the new reality show, is friends with at least one person in the shark-dragging video, though he is not shown himself.
In a now-deleted Instagram comment on a post promoting the premiere of “Siesta Key,” Alex Kompothecras acknowledged his relationship with an individual in the shark-dragging video but distanced himself from the incident.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with the shark video," Kompothecras wrote. "Yes he's a friend of mine, but I don't agree with what he did.”
Several of the posts linking Alex Kompothecras and the people in the shark-dragging video — most of which were on Instagram accounts — have also been deleted.
Commenters have also shared several screenshots of posts that have since been deleted from Alex Kompothecras’ Instagram account, some of which showed a hand pointing a gun at a fish in water, people drinking from beer cans in fishes’ mouths, and someone swimming toward a whale with “#teammurdermurder” written in the caption.
Following this, a Facebook event titled “Siesta Key Animal Abuse Protest!!!” was created. In the description, organizers asked that CineBistro cancel the event, or protesters would be there to greet the cast and producers on the red carpet.
“Unfortunately, over the past few days the connection between the production and the Siesta Key show and the horrific videos and photos of animal abuse have come to light,” the event description said. “The public outrage and cry for justice must be heard!”
At the time of publication, 131 people said they were going to the event, and almost 700 were interested.
Jordan Fuchs is a USF Sarasota-Manatee student and one of the three organizers of the protest. He grew up in the area and says he started the protest because he was disgusted by the images he saw online and doesn’t want to support a show with local characters who glorify such behavior.
He says the group achieved its goal now that the red-carpet premiere is canceled, so there will be no protest.
“Because I don’t feel like we have a place to go in a positive way that’s meaningful, I don’t want to just throw a bunch of people in the middle of the rain for no reason.”
Another Facebook group, Boycott Siesta Key MTV, also emerged. It has almost 6,000 likes.
Administrators of the group said in a recent post that their aim is to create a space where concerned residents can voice their thoughts, but they will not be organizing any protests.
At the time of this article, the most recent page post was a reminder from admins that threats posted on the page would not be tolerated. This was a timely warning particularly because, according to the admins, they are "now being "followed by local law enforcement" due to the spreading of inaccurate information.
The FWC was alerted to the shark-dragging video on July 24, and began looking into it. As the story gained traction and people began sending in more images and information, officials were able to identify the people in the video by July 26, though they have yet to release their names.
In the statement, the FWC called the video “disheartening and disturbing,” but said it was too soon to speculate on what, if any violations had taken place. The FWC thanked the public for its assistance.
Gov. Rick Scott wrote a letter about the video to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Chair Brian Yablonski, calling the video “incredibly disturbing.”
Scott went on to say he encourages the FWC to “review Florida’s fishing regulations and state statutes to ensure such inhumane acts are strictly prohibited.”
The show goes on
The show will still air at 10 p.m. July 31 on MTV.
Since the show was announced this summer, Siesta Key residents have been concerned about the amount of attention, and the type of attention a reality show could bring to the already-popular destination.
On the other side of the argument, some said the show would bring a needed new perspective to the Key, and an economic boost.
And some just said the show wouldn’t have much of an impact at all on the Key.
After the cancellation, several commenters and Facebook pages suggested another event was scheduled at Hooters of Sarasota, but the restaurant issued a statement shortly after stating it had no plans to screen the show.
“Siesta Key” is a docuseries that follows the lives of seven affluent young adults living in Siesta Key over the course of a summer.
Niki Kottmann contributed to this report.