Tampa Mayor To Hunt Down Maskless Super Bowl Attendees

"Bad actors will be identified, and the Tampa Police Department will handle it."


With their recent Super Bowl win, residents of Tampa, Florida, have cause to celebrate right now. But not everyone.

"I'm proud to say that the majority of individuals that I saw out and about enjoying the festivities…were complying," Mayor Jane Castor, a Democrat, told reporters at a press conference on Monday, referring to the mask directive she put in place before Sunday's big event. "But those few bad actors will be identified, and the Tampa Police Department will handle it."

Castor's executive order, which is in effect from January 28 to February 13, notes that "every person working, living, visiting, or doing business in the City of Tampa shall wear a face covering at any outdoor location located within (i) an Event Zone or (ii) an Entertainment District," which encompass places where people were more likely to gather for sports-related fun.

Masks indeed mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Also, siccing the police on people who are seen without masks opens up a Pandora's box of criminal justice abuses. Both of those things can be true.

The irony seems to be lost on many Democrats, who have made criminal justice reform one of their primary issues of late, particularly after the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd. One of President Joe Biden's first actions in office: an executive order that requires masks on all planes, trains, buses, subways, taxis, car services, boats, and transportation hubs. Many carriers already had such rules in place, but now transgressors risk criminal penalties.

"Creating a vast network of law enforcement officials empowered to enforce these mask rules will of course provide a handy new excuse for monitoring and surveilling citizens," writes Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown. "Meanwhile, deputizing federal agents, state authorities, and local cops to enforce transit mask rules will open up all sorts of new police harassment and abuse opportunities."

When it comes to Castor's enforcement, there are many unanswered questions. Foremost, it is unclear whether or not police will apply mercy to someone pictured without a mask who, say, was drinking or eating, as is customary at Super Bowl events. That would include Gov. Ron DeSantis.

For his part, DeSantis has allowed local governments to enact mask mandates as they see fit but has blocked them from collecting fines. Castor's comments Monday would imply that she plans to eschew that; her executive order allows for $500 civil penalties and misdemeanor criminal prosecution.

It is also unclear whether or not Castor followed her own previous executive order on the matter. Pursuant to an August directive, masks are required in all indoor public spaces, though photos circulated online of Castor potentially flouting her own rules.

Castor has not responded to a request for comment as of this writing. But one thing is still clear: The spread of COVID-19 was an urgent issue in the spring, summer, and fall, just as it is an urgent issue now. Why the double standard?