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Hillsborough school leader criticized after removing mask at Bucs party

Addison Davis was masked, then unmasked, then masked again at Wednesday’s crowded celebration in Tampa.
Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis, wearing a blue suit, can be seen walking through the crowd at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers party after the boat parade Wednesday in Tampa. A post on social media reads, "Five days after sending an email to all school staff telling them to avoid large gatherings, superintendent Davis turns up in the middle of the Bucs' party, maskless." Davis said he took his mask off briefly, and regrets doing so.
Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis, wearing a blue suit, can be seen walking through the crowd at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers party after the boat parade Wednesday in Tampa. A post on social media reads, "Five days after sending an email to all school staff telling them to avoid large gatherings, superintendent Davis turns up in the middle of the Bucs' party, maskless." Davis said he took his mask off briefly, and regrets doing so. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis is being blasted on social media over a screenshot that shows him unmasked during Tampa’s Super Bowl boat parade and portside celebration on Wednesday.

It is not clear how long he went without a mask, and a television video suggests it was under a minute. But Davis’ critics, who include teachers bracing for staff cuts in a tight-money year, are circulating the image along with scathing commentary.

In the photo, the unmasked Davis can be seen smiling as he works his way through a crowd of revelers who were celebrating Sunday’s win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This screenshot, showing Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis without a mask at Wednesday's Super Bowl celebration, has spread widely on social media. Davis is at bottom right wearing a blue jacket and red tie.
This screenshot, showing Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis without a mask at Wednesday's Super Bowl celebration, has spread widely on social media. Davis is at bottom right wearing a blue jacket and red tie. [ Facebook ]

“Geez, the world has gone mad,” public relations professional Lisa Brock wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times, attaching the photo and a transcribed phone message Davis had sent two days before the Super Bowl, cautioning families to avoid large gatherings where the coronavirus might spread.

In another email, Victoria Woodard wrote, “this hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed, and I — as a parent of a school-age child who desperately misses in-person learning but is dedicated to keeping his high-risk family safe — am angry about it.”

On Thursday, Davis gave this written statement to the Times: “Along with several other local leaders, I attended the championship presentation at the port to celebrate our partners, the Buccaneers, and their historic win. I wore my mask throughout the event, only taking it off briefly for a few photos and then putting it back on for the remainder of the time I was in attendance.”

A livestream video by WFLA-Ch. 8 backs up Davis’ account. It shows the superintendent wearing a black cloth mask in minute 2:25 as he gives an interview to WFLA reporter Josh Benson.

Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis speaking with WFLA-Ch.  8 reporter Josh Benson at the Super Bowl celebration Wednesday.
Hillsborough County school superintendent Addison Davis speaking with WFLA-Ch. 8 reporter Josh Benson at the Super Bowl celebration Wednesday. [ Hillsborough County School District ]
Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis with Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Bruce Arians at Wednesday's celebration.
Hillsborough school superintendent Addison Davis with Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Bruce Arians at Wednesday's celebration. [ Hillsborough County School District ]

Other interviews follow, including one with Bucs General Manager Jason Licht, whose mask is around his chin. The two are so close that Benson remarks, “you have surprisingly good breath and I can smell it through my mask.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who is wearing his mask properly, also stands very close to the reporter. Asked about COVID-19, Chronister says he believes people have taken individual responsibility when it comes to masking. “But again, what a great opportunity for Tampa to show the world what a special place this is,” Chronister adds.

The time when Davis is unmasked is around the 2:30 mark, as the crowd is watching quarterback Tom Brady dance with his daughter, Vivian, in his arms. Father and daughter are unmasked. Davis can be seen, mask on, photographing the two with his phone. He appears briefly, mask off as he walks through the crowd. But in minute 2:31, the mask is on again.

Facebook users who had seen the screen shot but not the video, posted comments by the hundreds. Some asked why Davis was at a party during work hours. Teachers suggested that he quarantine before visiting their schools.

Davis did not absolve himself completely. “As I said in my email to employees and families last week, we should always follow CDC guidelines to stay healthy and safe, and that includes me,” he wrote.

“In hindsight, I should have kept my mask on for the entire celebration.”