Mascot Mania: The lights are back on…who’s here?

Written By Sarah Gibson, Mascot Columnist

At the beginning of last semester, we were coming to terms with the fact that sports were being delayed for an unknown amount of time, without us knowing how they’d be coming back. It was disheartening, to say the least. Sports create all kinds of morale, and if there were ever a time that we needed morale collectively, it would be through the pandemic. 

But it’s a new semester now, with new COVID-19 numbers, new vaccines and new sports protocol. The stadiums are open (sort of), the lights are on. So, how is this different? Who’s home?


Well, to start off, it isn’t the fans, for the most part. Many sports leagues have taken to attempting to craft a “bubble” for staff to stay inside, and some have explicitly laid out rules stating that fans are not welcome at the games.

As for the NFL, fans have been invited to some games, but not many. Only five of the league’s 32 total teams decided to let fans attend games during the pandemic, but even then, it was at an incredibly limited capacity. NFL mascots in particular have had to learn to support from afar this year, as the rules set at the beginning of the season by the NFL prohibit cheerleaders and mascots from performing inside the stadium. 

The NHL is an interesting case to talk about. If we’re going by last season’s rules, mascots aren’t welcome in the stadiums during games. However, hockey had a quick turnaround. Last season ended in September, and we are already back with the new 2020-2021 season. The mascot rules seemed to just carry over,  because the NHL didn’t mention any plans for mascots in the new season. Which brings us to Gritty, like it always does, somehow. 

The Flyers’ mascot reached out to the Philadelphia health department and got express permission to attend Flyer’s games. After going on to petition the NHL to allow him to attend games, the NHL gave Gritty permission. But that leaves a question: Does this apply to all NHL mascots? Can Iceburgh go to games so long as his operator is wearing a better mask than the suit provides? The NHL didn’t say, which makes me very interested to see how the other mascots are handled for the rest of the season. 

Baseball doesn’t have as much to report. Last season’s mascots were allowed to perform, but only in the empty stands, which seemed awfully lonely, but characters like the Phanatic tended to make the best of it.  Spring training usually starts up in March, but at the time of writing, I haven’t been able to find any buzz on whether or not the vaccines coming into play may make changes to last season’s mascot policies. 

Now, if you ask my take on all of this, I would say that it’s just plum tricky. These bubbles have been proven not to be infallible, which means that adding another staff member like a mascot is definitely a risk, but at the same time, it all depends on how close the mascot is getting with other people. According to AJ Mass in “Yes, it’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Wooly World of Sports Mascots,” Mr. Met didn’t change anywhere near the players in the stadium, but that was also a considerable amount of time ago.

 Personally, I think that as long as the mascot doesn’t change near any other staff members, is always wearing proper PPE and doesn’t perform too closely to players or fans, it is probably fine, but personally, I don’t love the idea of these bubbles during the height of the pandemic. I think it would be a better idea to wait until vaccines are more widely available to open sports, so it can be done without as much risk, but I understand that nobody who makes the decisions will be convinced of that. So for now, we settle for caution, and an undefined, open season of mascot performance ahead.