Swathes of Los Angeles Lakers fans packed downtown streets Sunday night following the team’s victory in the 2020 NBA Finals, raising concerns from officials that people would be at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Staples Center was the epicenter of the gathering with loudly cheering crowds waving flags as well as celebratory horn honks.
“KOBE. KOBE. KOBE.”
STAPLES Center is the place to be rn. pic.twitter.com/BCRHxMHgDy
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) October 12, 2020
In response to the victory, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took to Twitter to remind Lakers fans that while celebrating is totally acceptable, gathering in a large crowd is still unsafe. He encouraged Los Angeles Lakers’ fans to “celebrate safely at home.
As we cheer our @Lakers’ 17th championship, please remember it’s still not safe to gather in groups. Let’s honor our city’s triumph by protecting others and making sure we don’t spread the virus.
Please celebrate safely at home. Do not gather at Staples Center. Thank you!
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) October 12, 2020
Naturally, Garcetti’s wish went unanswered as a large crowd began to form. This eventually called for action on the part of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which could be seen on video trying to direct the crowd and keep people on sidewalks and out of the street.
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) October 12, 2020
What was originally a joyous celebration turned into a tense confrontation between fans and police, leading to the deployment of non-lethal projectiles. At one point, LAPD SWAT team officials were called in to assist with crowd control.
For Angelinos, the victory was a welcome blast of positivity following months of lockdowns, social distancing rules, and economic turmoil which has gripped the United States following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Los Angeles really needed this. It’s been a rollercoaster for everybody around the world,” Lakers fan Gregory Paul said. “I don’t know if everybody believes in guardian angels but I think Kobe definitely has a soft spot for the Lakers forever and ever.”
According to the LAPD, a small group of fans set off fireworks to celebrate the win, which is reportedly illegal in unincorporated areas of LA Country and requires a permit.
This is the first time the Los Angeles Lakers have won a championship since 2010, making it their 17th NBA finals victory in the team’s legacy.
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