Where It Began: Team Debates Mask Rule for 'Sweet Caroline'

Videos of Panthers' victory celebrations raise concerns
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 9, 2020 4:25 PM CDT
Team Considers Masking Up for 'Sweet Caroline'
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule signals during an NFL game against the Los Angeles Chargers last month in Inglewood, Calif.   (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said the team's coaches will be masked up for future victory celebrations in the locker room that include the singing of "Sweet Caroline." A decision on whether the players also must wear masks is under evaluation, the AP reports. The Panthers have celebrated their first two wins of the Rhule era with a new tradition that includes assistant special teams coach Ed Foley leading players in a spirited rendition of the Neil Diamond song in the locker room after the game. Videos from the team’s Twitter account show players gathered in close proximity to Foley—and each other—and singing along without masks on. Rhule said after it was brought to the team's attention that this could be a social distancing issue, and a decision was made that coaches will wear masks for celebrations, given the coronavirus pandemic. "I want to make sure we are safe and in compliance," Ruhle said.

The decision on players wearing masks will be to the team's medical staff, the coach said. No decision has been finalized, but a team spokesman said that could come over the weekend or next week. Commissioner Roger Goodell has warned NFL teams of penalties including potential forfeits of games for violations of COVID-19 protocols that force changes in the schedule. Goodell sent teams a memo Monday reiterating the need to adhere fully to the guidelines. The NFL has fined coaches $100,000 each for not wearing masks on the sideline, and the league is dealing with more positive tests on teams. During the week, Carolina players are required to wear masks for team meetings. However, masks are optional in the weight room and on the practice field. "We are all finding out that life is very different," Rhule said, "but there is probably always a way to make sure that we're having fun and still being as safe as possible." (Neil Diamond tweaked his song's lyrics for these times.)

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