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Here's The Deal With The Fans In The Stadium For The Super Bowl

Yes, there are thousands of people in the audience — including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers — but there are also 30,000 cardboard cutouts that look real.

Posted on February 7, 2021, at 9:21 p.m. ET

Charlie Riedel / AP

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts before the Super Bowl game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa.

A lot of people tuned into the Super Bowl on Sunday and freaked out at seeing a packed stadium — but on closer inspection, there are thousands more cardboard cutouts than people.

Sunday's Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is the smallest crowd in recent history, due to the dangers of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.

The NFL capped the crowd at 22,000 fans, with 7,500 tickets distributed to vaccinated healthcare workers across the country as a thank-you during the pandemic.

Another 3,000 players, personnel, and other NFL staff are also at Sunday's game, according to the NFL.

Gregory Bull / AP

Fans sit behind cutouts in the stands before the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2021.

However, the stadium still looks crowded because of 30,000 cardboard cutouts made to look like cheering fans are in the stands. A Super Bowl cutout cost $100, and a bunch of celebs, such as DJ Khaled and Lady Gaga, also appear.

Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, tweeted an explanation noting that the cutouts "provide physical distance btwn pods of fans & vaccinated health care workers."

McCarthy also pointed out that they are quite a visual effect. "Place looked packed when I arrived at 8:30 a.m. today," he said.

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

Twitter: @NFLprguy

However, the appearance of a packed stadium stressed people out.

Watching COVID mutate in dazzling 8K

Twitter: @annadrezen

Particularly for those pretty frustrated that thousands are gathering to celebrate during a pandemic, when others haven't seen family or socialized in nearly a year.

I hope the crowd at the super bowl enjoys themselves as much as I, who am sitting in the same house I’ve been quarantined in for ten months so I don’t get myself and others sick.

Twitter: @WhoseRyanStiles

Currently Florida's Hillsborough County, where the stadium is, has seen a drop in the last two weeks from 612 cases to 423.

the NFL: the crowd at the Super Bowl will be limited to 22,000 socially distanced fans the crowd at the Super Bowl:

Twitter: @rodger

Florida is currently ranked third in the country in COVID-19 cases.

With a crowd this big, the real winner this #SuperBowl is COVID.

Twitter: @MrAhmednurAli

The stadium has a 65,000 capacity, which means even with the 30,000 cutouts, the venue isn't totally full.

omg I can’t believe I took two hours off the internet and missed everyone screaming about the Super Bowl stands being packed only to realize they’re filled with plastic people aaaaaaaahhggghh

Twitter: @carlyewisel


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.