INGLEWOOD, Calif.—Several California officials are under fire after they were photographed without masks at a Jan. 30 National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
The Los Angeles Rams earned their spot in the Superbowl LVI when they beat the San Francisco 49ers 20–17, and the high-profile football match drew high-profile guests—including Gov. Gavin Newsom, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed—who each posed maskless for a photo with NBA legend Magic Johnson.
Hanging out at SoFi Stadium today! pic.twitter.com/XfotiRLGz9
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 31, 2022
The photos circulated widely on social media in the face of the governor’s extended state of emergency and mask mandate through Feb. 15.
Los Angeles County also requires masks at indoor and outdoor mega-events of 5,000 people or more, regardless of vaccine status, except when “actively eating and drinking.”
SoFi Stadium also allows attendees to only remove their masks when eating or drinking, “after which they must be immediately put back on.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for a “re-evaluation” of the county’s mask policy on Jan. 31, saying the policies “don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced.”
“Masking rules set by the state and county weren’t followed consistently by everyone at yesterday’s NFC Championship,” Barger said in a statement. “Instead, we saw individuals choosing to mask up based on calculated personal risk. … Let’s do away with blanket COVID-19 masking policies—they don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced. We need to trust the public to make the best personal decisions for themselves based on their unique risks and circumstances.”
San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond in a Jan. 31 statement accused the officials of “disregarding the rules they put in place for us.”
“This continued undermining of the public’s trust is dangerous,” Desmond said. “Governor Newsom has extraordinary emergency powers to issue rules he believes will stop the spread of COVID-19, yet his actions show he believes many of those rules to be unnecessary or ineffective.”
Desmond said Los Angeles County’s rules for SoFi Stadium, guided by California health officials, “do not include exceptions for the Governor, the Mayor of San Francisco or the Mayor of Los Angeles.”
Johnson’s photos were taken from a luxury box overlooking the field. While Garcetti and Breed are pictured with what appears to be face masks in hand, no masks are visible in the Newsom photo, though the governor maintained that the mask was in his left hand when asked about the matter during a Jan. 31 press conference.
“I was very judicious yesterday,” Newsom said. “Very judicious. You’ll see the photo that I did take, Magic was kind enough, generous enough, to ask me for a photograph, and in my left hand’s the mask, and I took the photo. The rest of the time, I wore it as we all should, um—not when I had a glass of water—and I encourage everybody else to do so.”
The governor was also separately photographed sitting with his mask undone, hanging from one ear, without drinks or food in sight.
“The governor acknowledged that he took off his mask for a few moments during Sunday’s game,” a spokeswoman from Newsom’s office, Erin Mellon, said in a statement. “He continues to encourage all Californians to do their part to get through the pandemic and this latest surge, including wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.”
State Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), a Republican, criticized Newsom, pointing out that young children are being forced to wear masks all day in schools, while officials go maskless at mega-events.
“Toddlers are being forced to wear masks all day long in school,” Melendez wrote on Twitter. “Maybe one day they’ll be governor or the mayor of LA and they won’t have the follow the rules they impose on others.”
Assemblywoman Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) echoed Melendez’s concerns about student masking, saying in a statement, “Actions speak louder than words and Governor Newsom’s actions at the NFC Championship football game shows why he cannot lead by example. Our kids are inundated with COVID rules at school, but it turns out all they need to do is rub elbows with the Hollywood elite and COVID rules don’t apply. The governor’s hypocrisy knows no limit.”
This comes after the county’s public health department has issued repeated reminders in the past two weeks that masks are required at outdoor mega-events, including at SoFi Stadium where Superbowl LVI will take place Feb. 13.
“We appreciate efforts made at the venues to remind spectators of the requirement and ask that attendees take responsibility for protecting each other during the surge by keeping their masks on unless actively eating or drinking,” a spokesperson from the health department told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
Mayors Garcetti and Breed didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.