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The Lightning seem to be forgetting COVID-19 precautions while celebrating Stanley Cup win

The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to have forgotten why they spent three months locked in a Canadian bubble to play hockey.

After their victorious Stanley Cup run, the team returned to their home city to engage in celebrations that are pretty uncomfortable to watch considering there’s a global pandemic happening at the moment. While the team tried to organize celebrations that kept Covid-19 and social distancing in mind, the wheels have come off the party train and at least some of the blame lies with the team and the players.

On Wednesday, the team organized a boat parade down the Hillsborough River that lured excited fans along the banks, many who can be seen in photos not wearing masks and crammed close together. The team also organized a rally at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium. They limited seating capacity to 15,000 so people would be able to keep their distance. From the looks of photos, emotions overwhelmed caution and fans mingled with other fans and players for a chance to celebrate a long awaited victory.

At the top of the list of things that didn’t need to happen is this random swapping of spit, as players let several people drink out of the Cup. This is unsanitary enough without a pandemic, but considering the dangerous of Covid, it’s downright reckless.

Second to that is the Lightning’s Alex Killorn thanking Florida governor Ron DeSantis for opening up bars to 100% indoor capacity, even though it’s proven that indoor dining is one of the most effective ways to spread Covid.

It’s great that players are excited to celebrate and be back home, but encouraging people to pack bars at a time like this is not a good look.

DeSantis has basically lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the state, so it’s not like Tampa Bay or the fans are breaking any laws. Instead, what they’re doing is abiding by a leader that has ignored science and what is in the best interest of public health.

It is a lot to ask of the Lightning that they step up when the government hasn’t, but that’s the situation we’re all in right now. The problem is that when institutions fail to lead, individual choice and responsibility has to come into play. I don’t blame Killorn or the Lightning for wanting to celebrate a Cup win, especially after so many blown chances, but I do blame them for setting conditions that would only lead to failure and for encouraging reckless behavior.

The Lightning spent months sequestered away from civilization because of a brutal pandemic. Being inside that bubble, and all the sacrifice that entailed, was the only reason the Stanley Cup Playoffs succeeded and why every NHL player that participated got to walk out healthy. As we can see with the NFL and MLB, it’s a certainty that Covid spreads without that extreme precaution.

Now that Lightning players are all back home, that seems to have forgotten why they were making that huge sacrifice in the first place. As much as no one wants to hear this, a pandemic is still happening across the country and Florida ranks third in the US for recent Covid cases and deaths.

The NHL has set themselves up as one of the leagues that handled the pandemic in a safe and responsible way, and Tampa Bay’s clouded judgement right now could unravel all that work. Sure, bars and restaurants are open and DeSantis seeks to undermine science at every turn, but the Lightning and their players need to be better than their government. They need to realize that the dangers of the pandemic are still very real and, as crushing as it may be, put the health and safety of others above their own celebrations.

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