The National Football League is giving back to healthcare workers in a big way in 2021.
As a way to show thanks to those who have been working on the frontlines of COVID-19 the past year, the organization is inviting 7,500 healthcare workers, all of whom have received both doses of the vaccine, to Super Bowl LV. The majority of those invited will be from hospitals and healthcare systems in the Tampa area, where the NFL championship game will take place inside Raymond James Stadium.
Among those in attendance will be Glenda Wright, Michele Moran and Rev. Jenny Sumner Carswell, employees from Tampa General Hospital. ET exclusively spoke with the three ladies over Zoom this week about what the honorary invite means to them, and how excited they are to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in person.
“It is wonderful to be celebrated at the Super Bowl as heroes for what we’ve done in the last year,” explained Carswell, Chaplain Educator and Coordinator in Spiritual Health. “All of us healthcare workers, we haven’t been living in a bubble. We’ve been coming into work and having to do this for eight, 10, 12 hours, and then going home and holding the rest of it — school shutdowns, the economic hit and the fear of our family members catching COVID-19. It has been a really challenging, tragic year and I’m grateful for this chance to tell our narrative.”
“We come to work every day because it’s in our heart to do it, so to be awarded something this significant, at a time like this, it really means the world.” added Wright, Director of Environmental Services. “It’s a complete honor to be a recipient and I’m just very proud. Proud of who we work for, and proud of who we work with.”
Moran, Sr. Director of Emergency Services at the region’s only Level One Trauma Center, told ET that finding out she was going to be going to the Super Bowl as a guest of the NFL was “honestly a dream.”
“I originally signed up to put my name in the hat for a ticket because I wanted my frontline team workers to be able to go,” she shared. “So for me, this was the best day of my life!”
Moran added that it’s difficult to describe what the past year has been like for everyone, especially those working in healthcare throughout the pandemic.
“We’re going on a year, and truth be told, the team is exhausted. But with that exhaustion comes such resilience,” she said of how her own team at Tampa General Hospital has been holding up. “I am so proud of how they have pushed through every single day. They come to work, it’s a different challenge, and they accept it and give great care. I just couldn’t be more proud.”
“As tough as it’s been, I’m optimistic that we’re going to get through it,” she continued. “The whole healthcare profession has worked so hard through this and they are true heroes. So I think it’s an absolute honor the NFL is doing this. Of the [thousands] that will be at the Super Bowl, 7,500 of those will be healthcare workers and I think that it’s so deserved.”
The Tampa ladies all agreed that what’s even more special is the fact that they’ll get to cheer on their home team, the Buccaneers.
“When we got the tickets, we didn’t know the Bucs were going to be in the Super Bowl yet, so it’s an extra layer [of excitement],” Carswell explained, with Moran adding, “It’s so exciting, and to have Tom Brady there, I just cannot wait for the whole experience!”
Wright, who is originally from Philadelphia, said that she’s also rooting for the Bucs “all the way,” and is so pumped to see the team play in their city.
“I’m proud of this city,” she raved. “I’m proud to be here, and just feel really honored that we were chosen to go.”
Additional healthcare heroes around the country will also be recognized through a variety of special moments both in the stadium and during CBS’ Super Bowl broadcast, according to NFL.com.
“These dedicated healthcare workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”
The outlet reports that there will be 14,500 additional fans in attendance at Raymond James Stadium. Tune into Entertainment Tonight on Wednesday for more on what to expect from Super Bowl LV, and head here for everything you need to know about kickoff, halftime and more.
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