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Football Fans Pack Downtown for UGA’s First Home Game

Football fans packed into downtown bars the weekend of the Auburn game. Credit: Whitley Carpenter.

Thousands of people packed downtown streets and bars Saturday for the University of Georgia’s first home game of the year.

Many did not wear masks or observe social distancing guidelines. Athens-Clarke County has a law requiring people to wear a mask inside businesses, unless those businesses opt out of the law or when eating and drinking. The law also applies outdoors when staying six feet apart isn’t possible.

Mayor Kelly Girtz told Flagpole he hadn’t been fully debriefed yet, but he knew police issued several citations to bars for violating capacity limits.

“Downtown was less masked than when it’s just the local scene,” Girtz said. For future games, Athens-Clarke County is considering “pivoting to outdoor seating” by closing streets in an effort to keep bar patrons spread apart.

Inside Sanford Stadium, the announced attendance was 20,524—less than a quarter of its capacity—but appeared to be densely packed in some parts of the stadium, particularly the student section. The crowd drew widespread criticism from national journalists and other observers.

Photographer Whitley Carpenter documented the scene for Flagpole.

Whitley Carpenter Chris Charette sells merchandise before the game.
Whitley Carpenter
Whitley Carpenter Artist Michael Davenport, who lost his arms in a childhood accident, draws a Bulldog.
Whitley Carpenter
Whitley Carpenter
Whitley Carpenter
Whitley Carpenter The “Bad Dawg Coalition” used street-theater tactics to protest Saturday’s “super-spreader event,” and may do so at future home games, as well, to publicly shame university officials and educate the public, according to participant Lizzie Zucker Saltz.

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