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Sports

Maskless Crowds Gather in Tampa After Super Bowl Win

The streets of Tampa, Fla., teemed with boozy revelers into the wee hours of Monday, many of them ignoring pleas from medical experts to socially distance and to wear masks, after the Buccaneers crushed the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl. A few scrums broke out.

In one of the more bizarre episodes, a man in a red T-shirt and shorts climbed a small tree in the city’s South Howard district, known as SoHo, and rocked back and forth as hundreds of people egged him on, a video captured by Juan Carlos Chavez, a reporter for The Tampa Bay Times, showed.

The man later appeared to be taken into custody by the police after people in the crowd started shoving one another, a subsequent video by Mr. Chavez showed. At least one police officer appeared to get knocked to the ground.

A total of four people were arrested at the official Super Bowl venues, including Raymond James Stadium, in a 24-hour span that began early Sunday morning, according to preliminary statistics released on Monday by the Tampa Police Department.

An additional four people were ejected and two were given warnings, said the authorities, who added that alcohol was involved in every one of the cases.

One of the more notable arrests involved a 31-year-old man who ran onto the field during the fourth quarter in a pink leotard before being tackled by law enforcement officers near the goal line. He was charged with trespassing, the authorities said.

It was not immediately clear whether the police issued any citations for violations of a temporary ordinance requiring people to wear masks at several popular outdoor spots in the city.

Chief Brian Dugan of the Tampa Police Department said on Twitter on Monday that the “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,” he added, referring to the Super Bowl celebrations.

About two hours after the scuffle near South Howard Avenue, a convoy of police cars moved through the street in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowd. Smoke could be seen billowing in another video captured by Olivia Steen, a local reporter.

In Ybor City, another part of Tampa known for its nightlife, a sea of people partied late into the night. In videos, few people are seen wearing masks. It was not immediately clear whether any effort had been made to disperse the crowd. A television reporter, Ryan Smith, characterized the scene as “one massive dance floor.”

The scene of thousands of fans tightly packed into the city’s streets and outside Raymond James Stadium represented an alternate universe from the steady warnings by the nation’s top health officials about the risks of the Super Bowl becoming a superspreader event. It also came amid growing concerns that variants of the coronavirus, including one first found in Britain, have become more transmissible.

Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa said at a news conference on Monday that she did not see how the game itself could have been a superspreader event, because “everyone was spread out” in the stadium.

Asked about large crowds celebrating in the streets after the game, in which many people were seen not wearing masks, she said transmission of the virus was “always going to be a concern” but “if we can get the majority of individuals wearing their masks, then we can tamp down and contain the spread.”

Ms. Castor expressed optimism, saying the city did not have a spike in cases after similar celebrations last year. “You’re going to find a few that don’t” wear masks, she said, but “the majority that I saw were wearing masks.”

She also said there were “very few” altercations in the city among “tens of thousands of people all over the city.”

“I’m proud of our community, but those few bad actors will be identified and the Tampa Police Department will handle it,” she said.

She added that the city had handed out more than 200,000 masks and had 8,000 volunteers handing out masks and reminding people to wear them.

“Over all I’m happy with the compliance,” she said.

Inside the stadium, the home field of the Buccaneers that typically holds about 66,000 people, capacity had been limited to 22,000 spectators for the game. The empty seats had been filled with cardboard cutouts of fans who could not attend the Super Bowl, but who had paid $100 to have their photos present.

Toward the end of the game, a man wearing a pink leotard and black shorts rushed the field. The man, Yuri Andrade, 31, of Boca Raton, Fla., was arrested on a trespassing charge at the stadium, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He was booked into the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office jail on Monday morning and released on $500 bond.

Outside the stadium, there appeared to be far less of an emphasis on social distancing and wearing masks. Maskless fans in jerseys tailgated, waving Buccaneers flags and listening to music.

After the game, which the Buccaneers won 31-9 over the Chiefs, last year’s champions, a group of fans surrounded a Kansas City team bus. Many of those in that crowd also did not appear to be wearing masks. Officers on motorcycles cleared the crowd for the bus to be on its way.

Johnny Diaz, Benjamin Hoffman and Elena Bergeron contributed reporting.

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