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Throngs Of Maskless Fans Celebrate Bucs' Super Bowl Win In Streets Of Tampa

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Distancing and mask rules were largely ignored as celebrations took place in the streets after the game, Meantime, parties before the game may cause blowback for some businesses.

So much for the mayor's order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars across Tampa as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the hometown championship.

Inside Raymond James Stadium, the NFL had capped Sunday night's crowd at less than a third of capacity.

But outside, few fans seemed to care about the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing was abandoned in the streets and sports bars as fans celebrated their team's 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Many ignored the executive order signed by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor requiring face coverings at Super Bowl festivities.

Distancing and mask rules were largely ignored as celebrations took place along Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, in Tampa's SoHo neighborhood and the Channel District, and outside Raymond James Stadium.

Videos on social media showed fans stopping traffic by gathering in intersections, as well as climbing on trees, construction scaffolds, and a HART bus.

Other videos showed police moving into a crowd along Columbus Drive near the stadium to make an arrest, as well as dispersing crowds at other locations around the city. As of 5 a.m. Monday, police had not announced how many people were arrested.

A number of exits on Interstates 4 and 275 were also shut down by police because of the large crowds.

The game hadn't even officially ended before thousands of fans took to city streets to party.

Rob Palmer walked around outside Raymond James Stadium waving a Bucs flag. He drove over from Clearwater halfway through the game because he wanted to revel with fellow fans.

"Oh, man, it means a lot, especially after this past year," he said. "It really does. I mean think about it, we won the Super Bowl, (the Lightning) won the Stanley Cup, and (the Rays) almost won the World Series. Special time for Tampa Bay."

Still, Palmer lamented that the victory happened amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said, prior to this season, he hadn't missed a Bucs home game in 20 years and would have liked to have been one of the 25,000 fans - about a third capacity - allowed inside the stadium on Sunday night.

Angie Nielson jumped on top of a car parked in the middle of the road near the stadium and danced and cheered with strangers.

Sporting a Tom Brady jersey that was half New England Patriots colors and half Bucs colors, Nielson said she flew in from Illinois this weekend to root for her favorite player.

"(We) travel very far to follow Brady, wherever Brady goes, we go," she said.

Longtime Bucs fan Michael Ali of Tampa said that Brady deserved some, but not all of the credit for the victory.

"The Bucs as a team, they got that win," said Ali. "We got a young, hungry defense and you know what, we're gonna be good for multiple years."

Kansas City resident and Chiefs fan Dhaima Raavi said he was having too much fun partying to let the loss get him down. He thinks his team will come back stronger next season.

"Congratulations Buccaneers, but we'll see you at the next Super Bowl!"

Attendance was limited to curb spread of the virus. But health experts say the partying in the community will likely lead to a spike in cases anyway.

That included the nights before the game. There were plenty of pictures of throngs of partygoers whooping it up mask-less in Ybor City on Saturday night.

Angie Nielsen, wearing a split Tom Brady jersey, came down from Illinois for the Super Bow.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media /
Angie Nielsen, wearing a split Tom Brady jersey, came down from Illinois for the Super Bow.

That might spur some action by officials now that the game has been played.

Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said it's difficult for officers to enforce the city's mask ordinance when there's thousands of people trying to have a good time. He appealed to people to exercise personal responsibility and take reasonable precautions.

But barring that, he said the city is prepared to take action against businesses that hosted large crowds without enforcing guidelines.

"We have been working with code enforcement, and there are some things behind the scenes going on about suspending their wet zoning licensing," he said. "But, you know, you have to remember the governor (Ron DeSantis) has lifted any restrictions on bars and restaurants, so what we can do as far as that is limited."

But Dugan said police have to walk a fine line.

"We cannot let this virus paralyze us, you know, and kill our economy," he said. "We have to be responsible. Government is trying to keep the economy running, but at the same time we're trying to keep the virus in check. But we need people to just cooperate and think this through."

The post-game blowback might also reach St. Petersburg.

Mayor Rick Kriseman on Twitter called a concert hosted by rapper 50 Cent Friday night "stupid."

He said the event at a private airplane hanger at Albert Whitted Airport may be investigated for possible violations of local safety rules.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.
Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.
Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.