Fact Check: Super Bowl Attendees Were NOT 'Packed Like Sardines' at Tampa Stadium: There Were Also 30,000 Fan Cutouts

Fact Check

  • by: Olivera Perkins
Fact Check: Super Bowl Attendees Were NOT 'Packed Like Sardines' at Tampa Stadium: There Were Also 30,000 Fan Cutouts 30,000 Cutouts

Were Super Bowl LV attendees "packed like sardines" at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on February 7, 2021, creating the potential of a superspreader COVID-19 event? No, that's not true: Those weren't all people at the championship game. An NFL spokesman tweeted the day of the Super Bowl that there were 30,000 fan cutouts throughout the stadium in addition to 25,000 (actual) people. The stadium seats 75,000, according to NFL.com.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published February 8, 2021, which opened:

Crazy how all them graduations was canceled .... but the Super Bowl was PACKED like sardines

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Feb 10 18:58:16 2021 UTC)

A February 7, 2021, tweet by Brian McCarthy, the NFL's vice president of communications, stated:

There are 30,000 fan cutouts placed thruout the stadium & about 25k people here. Place looked packed when I arrived at 8:30 a.m. today. Cutouts provide physical distance btwn pods of fans & vaccinated health care workers. And they are pretty cool looking. $ goes to charity #SBLV

A February 2, 2021, post on NFL.com explained the precautions that would be taken at the Super Bowl in hopes of preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The measures imposed for attendees included:

All fans in attendance will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and required to adhere to safety protocols, including:

  • Wearing a complimentary KN95 mask at all times;

  • Maintaining a social distance of at least six feet from other fans;

  • Maintaining social distance when entering, exiting and moving about the stadium;

  • Washing their hands regularly and making use of hand sanitizing stations;

  • Presenting all tickets on mobile devices;

  • Making cashless purchases to reduce high-touch interactions; and

  • Staying home if experiencing COVID-related symptoms.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Olivera Perkins

Olivera Perkins is a veteran journalist and fact checker at Lead Stories, who has covered a variety of beats, including labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Read more about or contact Olivera Perkins

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