Anti-vaxxers, union workers and woke protesters demonstrate in Tampa

Demonstrators greet football fans outside the Super Bowl as anti-vaxxers, union workers and activists unhappy with Kansas City’s Indian imagery protest at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

  • Protesters gathered outsider the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday
  • They were demonstrating over a whole host of different issues
  • Anti-vaxxers were there to voice their concerns alongside union workers looking for a new contract, rubbing shoulders with those unhappy at Kansas Chiefs logo
  • In the stadium, the NFL is allowing 22,000 fans, including 7,500 vaccinated health care workers, to attend the game in-person amid the pandemic

Hundreds of protesters with issues ranging from a union contract to Covid vaccines and the name of the visiting Kansas City team greeted Super Bowl fans in Tampa, Florida, patiently filing into Raymond James Stadium for the big game on Sunday afternoon.

The final of the National Football League championship featured veteran quarterback Tom Brady’s local Buccaneers and quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs after navigating a season of nearly empty stadiums in the era of Covid-19.

The NFL has said it made 22,000 tickets available, including 7,500 free passes for health care professionals.

Activists from the Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality organization demand that the Kansas City Chiefs change their name outside Raymond James Stadium just hours before Super Bowl LV

Robert Rosa from the Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality organization demands that the Kansas City Chiefs change their name

Rhonda Levaldo, of Kansas City, Missouri protests to eliminate all native mascots in sports outside Raymond James Stadium

Two dozen American Indians from tribes in Florida and the Midwest screamed their disapproval of the Kansas City Indian imagery

Rhonda Levaldo (left), of Kansas City, Mo., protests to eliminate all native mascots in sports

But as nurses and doctors and therapists lined up at stadium gates for up to an hour alongside the lucky few who ponied up between $5,000 and $50,000 for their tickets, activists made plenty of political hay with a captive audience and worldwide news coverage.

Three dozen members of anti Covid vaccine groups coast-to-coast, including Moms for Freedom and Florida Freedom Keepers, wore striped referee shirts as they converged around the entrance reserved to medical professionals.

Some shouted slogans like ‘educate yourselves’ or ‘don’t do it,’ to which one nurse in the line responded, ‘you idiots.’

A group of anti-vaccination protesters, the Florida Freedom Keepers, heckle fans in a one-mile long line outside Raymond James Stadium

Joshua Coleman, of California, leads a group of anti-vaccination protesters, the Florida Freedom Keepers

A group of anti-vaccination protesters, the Florida Freedom Keepers, heckle fans in Tampa

Three dozen members of anti Covid vaccine groups coast-to-coast, including Moms for Freedom and Florida Freedom Keepers wore striped referee shirts

‘We get a lot of those responses and many much ruder,’ said protest organizer Joshua Coleman, who flew in from California just to lead the action. ‘We trying to educate people, even medical professional, about the risks of vaccination. You can notice that we don’t have any signs about vaccine causing autism. We have strict medical facts.’

Such as?

‘That Covid vaccines cause seizures, encephalitis and auto-immune injuries,’ Coleman claimed.

Nurse Tiffany Click, 46, who works at the nearby Brandon Regional Hospital, called the protesters ignorant.

She said she won a raffle held by the hospital for 275 of the free tickets.

She started lining up about one mile away from the stadium in order to get in.

‘It is what it is,’ she said when asked about the line. ‘I’m vaccinated so it’s OK. I don’t mind waiting.’

Across the street, two dozen American Indians from tribes in Florida and the Midwest in native clothing screamed their disapproval of the Kansas City Indian imagery.

The Chiefs, said protester Rhonda Levaldo, should change their name just like the NFL’s Washington Redskins did last year.

‘For some reason, the Chiefs flew under the radar, supposedly because their logo is a sign of respect for us,’ said Levaldo, who flew to Tampa from Kansas City. ‘We’re not some vulgar mascot. We’re people and we’re not here for anyone’s entertainment.’

Frontier Communications workers protest for essential worker status, higher wages and more on one of the closed streets surrounding the Raymond James Stadium

The workers are employees of Frontier Communications, one of the local cable TV and internet access providers

Matt Wheat, 24, of Tampa, Fla., protests for essential worker status, higher wages and more

A line measuring more than one-mile long of spectators, many healthcare workers, stretches outside Raymond James Stadium just hours before Super Bowl LV in Tampa kicks off

Fans were unable to avoid the protesters as they lines up outside the stadium waiting to go in

There appeared to be a mood of festivities despite the reduced number of people attending

But the largest protest group by far, more than 500 people, was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Tampa chapter.

President Keith LaPlant proudly showed off a permit obtained from the city for a protest on one of the main arteries into the stadium area.

With cars crawling through major traffic jams, LaPlant’s union employees got the most honks from football fans.

The workers are employees of Frontier Communications, one of the local cable TV and internet access providers.

LaPlant said the union is currently in negotiations with the company which, he says, is trying to double the employees’ healthcare insurance contributions, eliminate healthcare for retirees and do away with its 401-K retirement program.

‘We’re essential workers,’ he said. ‘In this pandemic, we’re the ones who make sure kids can go to school online and businesses can operate from people’s homes. And for that, we’re digging holes and crawling through attics and spending time in homes were people could be sick.

Tiffany Click, a nurse who received a free ticket to the Super Bowl LV, waits in line

Fans are seen lining up before they head into the stadium 

The union is currently in negotiations with the company which is trying to double the employees’ healthcare insurance contributions, eliminate healthcare for retirees and do away with its 401-K retirement program

Organizer Keith Leplant, of Frontier Communications, protests for essential worker status, higher wages and more on one of the closed streets surrounding the Raymond James Stadium just hours before Super Bow in Tampa. He holds a permit from the city to protest

Frontier Communications workers protest for essential worker status

‘We stood by the company through thick and thin but the company’s not standing by us.’

LaPlant said Frontier is a major sponsor of the Buccaneers and has a brand presence at the stadium, making the protest potentially more embarrassing for it.

‘That’s why we wanted to be here at the Super Bowl,’ he said. ‘We told the company we were doing this, but they don’t appear to care.’

About 4:30 p.m., a bus arrived and picked up the remaining protesters.

‘Hey, we’re also Buccaneers fans,’ LaPlant said. ‘We’re going home to see the game.’ 

Tailgaters party in a strip club parking lot just outside the Raymond James Stadium just hours beforethe game kicks off 

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