Thousands of Bucs fans took to the streets around Tampa on Sunday night in open defiance of Covid restrictions to celebrate their team’s unprecedented home-field Super Bowl win.
As the night wore on, police eventually used pepper spray to control the crowds as drunken revelers blocked intersections, climbed trees and street lights, and took down street signs.
Almost none of the thousands-strong crowd could be seen wearing masks or socially distancing, despite health officials warning the Super Bowl could quickly turn into a super-spreader event if precautions weren’t followed.
Waving Tampa Bay Buccaneers and American flags, fans hugged and screamed and sang and ran between cars stuck on the streets for several hours, ignoring warnings about social distancing amid the COVID pandemic.
Fans were seen climbing over vehicles, streetlights and the marquees of stores.
Cars beeped their horns and the luxury yachts that had been docked all weekend at the marinas that dot downtown responded with blasts of their loud fog horns.
It came after Tom Brady led the team to its second Super Bowl win – the first in 18 years – on Sunday night, beating defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.
As the night wore on, however, violent scenes started becoming more frequent.
At first, police appeared at intersections to allow traffic to move freely and to direct fans to the sidewalks.
But soon, fans started swarming police, who retreated back into their cars. Some revelers took down street signs.
Fireworks exploded as fans with sports cars were drag racing on downtown streets, the rubber smoke and smell from the tires wafting above the crowds.
By midnight, however, police were spotted dousing revelers with pepper spray in order to reestablish a semblance of order.
Many revelers were seen without masks, in disregard of strict COVID restrictions brought in ahead of the game.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order last month requiring masks to be worn outside in the city’s most popular entertainment and recreation areas during Super Bowl festivities and the days following the event.
Tampa officials had warned of fines of up to $500 for violators of local health guidelines.
The nation’s top health officials sounded the alarm this week about the Super Bowl being a potential superspreader event.
‘I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly. People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,’ said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘So I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.’
Ahead of the game, hundreds of protesters with issues ranging from a union contract to Covid vaccines and the name of the visiting Kansas City team greeted Super Bowl fans in Tampa, Florida, patiently filing into Raymond James Stadium for the big game on Sunday afternoon.