Fact Check: Did the Tampa Mayor Violate Her Own Mask Order at the Super Bowl?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV on Sunday on their home turf at Raymond James Stadium.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order before the Super Bowl saying masks must be worn outside while in "event zones," such as downtown, in and around the stadium, and at other tourist hotspots until February 13. The order also said those not wearing masks could be cited for a "normal civil infraction" that carries a $500 fine.

While the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County have their own mask requirements in place, Republican Governor Rick DeSantis issued an executive order in September stating that people could not be fined for not wearing a mask in Florida.

Following the game and the fan celebration, Castor held a press conference during which she congratulated the city and stadium staff, local police and volunteers for their COVID-19 safety measures.

Interesting pic.twitter.com/rpg7Wh0F64

— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) February 9, 2021

The Claim

During the press conference, one reporter asked about people celebrating without masks and reports of police breaking up large crowds in the streets throughout the city.

Castor said she was proud of the majority of the tens of thousands of people in attendance who were compliant with mask mandates and celebrated responsibility. She reiterated that masks help stop the spread of the virus and that, while her office did everything possible to get people to wear masks, it comes down to personal responsibility.

Castor said that the "few bad actors" who celebrated without masks and caused police to break up large crowds would be identified and dealt with by law enforcement.

While many people on social media took that to mean maskless celebrators would be criminally charged, Janelle McGregor, a spokeswoman for the city, said the mayor was referring to people who caused property damage and criminal mischief during spontaneous celebrations around the city.

Tampa police reported making 18 arrests during post-Super Bowl celebrations.

Following the press conference, Twitter users were quick to point out the alleged hypocrisy of the mayor's actions regarding masks.

Users claimed that the mayor said she would prosecute people who did not wear a mask at the game or celebrations afterward but did not comply with her own mask-wearing rules during the game.

But it's OK to NOT wear a mask at a Tampa Bay Lightning game?

To set the example to Floridians, will Mayor @JaneCastor be nominating herself as "identified" and then be "handled" "by law enforcement"?

C'mon, Mayor set the example - BE the example ?

What say you @fdlepio? pic.twitter.com/v2UhJBNz39

— Jane Bailey (AcadiaU MtA)🇨🇦🇬🇧 (@peakpilot) February 9, 2021

The Facts

The photo of Castor without a mask was not from the Super Bowl. Some people speculated it was during an indoor Tampa Bay Lightning National Hockey League (NHL) game.

That was not the case, either. The NHL suspended the 2019-2020 season last March 12. The postseason games were held in Canada and did not have fans in attendance. The mayor's office confirmed she did not travel to Canada during that time. The last home game the Lightning played was on March 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. The game occurred days before DeSantis issued a state of emergency because of the pandemic and months before Hillsborough County's June mask mandate.

Our statement regarding the pausing of the 2019-20 @nhl season: pic.twitter.com/bSQPsKShSb

— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 12, 2020

According to McGregor, the photo of the mayor was taken during the 2020 Stanley Cup-winning celebration at Raymond James Stadium on September 30. The outdoor event to celebrate the Lightning's championship included a boat parade and ceremony. Fans were encouraged to practice social distancing and wear face coverings. The city's ordinance at that time did not require people to wear masks while outdoors. Many people in attendance were not wearing masks.

"We had to do everything that we could to make the celebrations safe but still allow the community to participate in such an incredible occasion," Castor said.

CELEBRATING THE CHAMPIONS...TAMPA STYLE ⚡️🚤 The City of Tampa is honoring the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning team today with a boat parade along the Hillsborough River. https://t.co/QpXPwClJjS https://t.co/LUTDEOkzX4

— WFLA NEWS (@WFLA) September 30, 2020

In a statement, the Lightning said the team worked diligently with city and county officials to "create socially distant, outdoors celebrations, spread out over two miles on the Tampa Riverwalk and at a less than 20 percent of capacity at Raymond James Stadium."

At the event, the mayor was seen without a mask at various points.

THIS is how we celebrate a #StanleyCup victory Tampa-style! 🏆😎

We had a blast seeing all the fans at the boat parade. Next stop, @RJStadium! #GOBOLTS pic.twitter.com/J9y5rwwtbR

— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) September 30, 2020

The Ruling


The image circulating on Twitter does not show the mayor violating her own mask mandate at the Super Bowl. The picture is from the Stanley Cup celebration on September 30. Masks were not required for outdoor events at that time.

Super Bowl fans Tampa Florida February 2021
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans celebrate the team's Super Bowl victory on February 7, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. Getty Images