The NFL announced Friday it was giving away 7,500 free tickets to Super Bowl LV in Tampa to vaccinated health care workers.
"I am the son of a nurse and that all of you have a very special place in my heart. I've seen the work that you do. My mom used to talk about it all the time. It's just extraordinary," said Commissioner Roger Goodell. "You're America's real MVPs."
According to the NFL, the majority of these health care workers – all of whom will have received both doses of the vaccine – will come from hospitals and health care systems in the Tampa and Central Florida area.
"These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude," said Goodell. "We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings."
“We were told we had a 2:30 Zoom meeting with our CEO David Verinder," said Sherrie Sheppard, an RN in the 5 Waldemere tower.
They were told the meeting was about COVID-19 vaccinations, but eyebrows began to raise when they saw two important people join the call.
“Once we saw Rob Higgins on the call we started to get a suspicion that something interesting may be happening," said Doris Cahueque a Nurse Educator at the hospital.
Even more so when they saw Goodell.
“It was a familiar face, I began to sweat profusely at that point. I knew something good was hopefully was going to happen," said Stephen Smith, an RN in the 5 Waldemere Tower.
“It is so exciting! I can not tell you. I am so excited," said Rebecca Izquierdo, an RN Case Manager.
The group says they put together a video in hopes of getting tickets but said they didn't expect to hear back.
“I said we have to speak this into existence. Let’s think positive. Then we came up with the idea to make the video, and I wrote the letter and I said we’re going to get there," said Izquierdo.
They were the first group of medical staff to get awarded tickets and the chance to talk with Mr. Goodell on a personal level.
"Some of our nurses took a moment and shared some really personal stories, interactions they’ve had with patients," said David Verinder, CEO of Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“Families want to see their loved ones, and they are unable to so you have to spend more time with these patients, they’re isolated," said Smith. "They can’t be with their loved ones, they only have communication through electronics, and that can be difficult, so you have to put yourself in their spot.”
There will also be 14,500 additional fans allowed in attendance at Raymond James Stadium.
Healthcare workers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital were surprised by the commissioner himself in a video posted to Twitter Friday morning.
The NFL is inviting 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to attend Super Bowl LV to thank and honor them for their continued extraordinary service during the pandemic.— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2021
To celebrate, @nflcommish surprised Sarasota Memorial Hospital health care workers with tickets to #SBLV. pic.twitter.com/iurMY0BvMM
Super Bowl LV kicks off from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on February 7.