Mask-clad fans streamed into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium on Super Bowl Sunday for the NFL’s championship game, as the limited crowd of attendees largely observed COVID-19 health and safety restrictions.
The showdown between the hometown Bucs and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs is the culmination of a National Football League season that once appeared in doubt, as the novel coronavirus ripped through the United States and plunged the world of professional sports into disarray nearly 11 months ago.
The 65,618-capacity Raymond James Stadium, which is allowing 25,000 ticketed fans in the stands and suites for America’s biggest annual sporting event, had the appearance of a packed crowd, as cardboard cutouts were scattered between the in-person fans.
“I love this,” said Colleen O’Malley, 61, a lifelong Chiefs fan who traveled from Lawrence, Kansas, gesturing to the cutouts, as she enjoyed the sunny skies and 71-degree Fahrenheit (22 C) weather. “We were worried about the rain and look at this!”
The cutouts, which feature images of average fans, former NFL players and celebrities including disc jockey and record producer DJ Khaled and singer Lizzo, were among the measures designed to keep attendees socially distanced.