- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Public health officials and experts have warned that attending large events surrounding the Super Bowl could lead to similar spikes in COVID-19 cases, just as Thanksgiving and Christmas did.
Yet a number of celebrities – including performers and those participating in a celebrity flag football game – have been shown in photos and videos over the weekend in Tampa, Florida, going against safety guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officials and event organizers.
Diplo, 50 Cent, Migos, Steve Aoki and Tory Lanez all performed during the Big Game Weekend event co-sponsored by Barstool Sports and Miami nightclub E11EVEN at Tampa's WTR Pool & Grill between Thursday and Saturday. Each performed without masks and in front of almost entirely maskless crowds at the outdoor venue, per videos captured by attendees.
USA TODAY has reached out to Tampa Police, the WTR Pool & Grill and E11EVEN and the stars' representatives. A representative for 50 Cent declined to comment.
"This isn't how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl," tweeted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Saturday, condemning photos from 50 Cent's show. "It's not safe or smart. It's stupid. We're going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent."
Diplo shared a series of photos to Instagram on Saturday, one of which appears to indicate he has received both doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Others show a sign that reads "MASKS ARE MANDATORY" and the DJ wearing a mask designed to look like his face. He wore the mask while taking photos prior to the event, but removed it for the performance.
The CDC say those who have received both doses should continue to wear masks and social distance: "Not enough information is currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19."
Lanez and several "Bachelor" franchise alums would go on to play in a celebrity flag football game on Sunday, also maskless, with only some attendees on the sidelines wearing masks, per video shared by Celebrity Sweat, the event's official organizer.
Former "Bachelor" Peter Weber, and former "Bachelorette" contestants Jason Tartick and Blake Horstmann, as well as several former NFL and WWE athletes, were among the game's participants. USA TODAY has reached out to Celebrity Sweat, Tartick and Horstmann. It was not immediately apparent if Weber had a representative.
According to Celebrity Sweat's website, this year's event was closed to the public and face masks were required. The Tampa Bay Times reports that more than 100 onlookers watched from behind the flag football game's barricades, "almost all of them maskless."
The NFL's safety precautions for the Super Bowl include capping attendance at 25,000 guests, nearly a third of whom will be vaccinated healthcare workers from Florida. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has imposed a mask mandate for entertainment areas and set a $500 fine for violators. But enforcement has been problematic in a state where Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned localities from collecting mask fines.
"I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing the NFL doing at the actual game itself,’’ said Jill Roberts, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida in the College of Public Health. “I think within the stadium and the game itself, the risk is very low.
“My concern is an influx of people going to bars and restaurants and tailgating in areas near the stadium and all of those things. Super Bowl parties are going to be as big of a problem as gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas were, and we do know for sure those gatherings did influence the increase in cases that we’re seeing right now."
As of Sunday, the U.S. is nearing 27 million COVID-19 cases and more than 463,300 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.
Contributing: Josh Peter
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Bowl: Diddy, Diplo, celebs maskless at pregame events amid COVID