Ever since late June, when American team sports restarted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most games have been played without fans. When stadiums have opened, capacities have been significantly restricted.
So when millions of viewers tuned into the Super Bowl on Sunday, some were alarmed to see a stadium that looked pretty darn full.
And indeed, there are more fans at Super Bowl LV in Tampa than there have been at most sporting events over the past seven months. The NFL expected to welcome around 25,000 people to Raymond James Stadium.
But many television shots, and even some photos from inside the stadium, were deceiving. More than half of the “people” you saw in the stands are actually cardboard cutouts.
Some ‘fans’ are actually cardboard cutouts
In between the 25,000 actual fans, there are around 30,000 pieces of cardboard depicting fans.
The NFL sold cutout spots for $100. Fans who paid could send in a photo of themselves and get their spot at Raymond James Stadium without actually traveling to the game.
The cutouts serve to make the stands look more full than they actually are on TV, but also to keep fans at a distance from one another.
Look closely at some of the photos from Tampa, and you can see that the actual humans are more spaced out than they appear in wide shots on TV:
Of course, some fans are still closer together than many epidemiologists would recommend. And mask-wearing – despite the NFL handing out masks to everybody who entered the stadium – wasn’t universal.
But pictures have been deceiving. And of the 25,000 fans in attendance, approximately 7,500 were vaccinated healthcare workers.
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