Garcetti says he held his breath during maskless photos at Rams-49ers game

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti at a 2020 news conference
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, shown in 2020, says he held his breath while posing maskless for photos during Sunday’s NFL playoff game.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Days after facing criticism for being photographed maskless at Sunday’s Rams-49ers playoff game, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has offered an explanation: He was holding his breath.

“I think we should focus on what’s real,” Garcetti said at a SoFi Stadium news conference Wednesday. “I wore my mask the entire game. And when people ask for a photograph, I hold my breath.”

“There’s a 0% chance of infection from that,” Garcetti added.

Photos surfaced Sunday of Garcetti and others at the Inglewood stadium, where attendees are required to wear masks to help protect against coronavirus transmission.


Magic Johnson shared images of several politicians — including Garcetti, Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed — who were all photographed with him without masks. Garcetti could be seen holding his mask in his hand, however, in the photo posted by Johnson.

“Hanging out at SoFi Stadium today!” Johnson wrote in the tweet showing several maskless fans.

Garcetti was also seen on the field at SoFi Stadium without a mask in images posted on his official Twitter account.

Images from the Rams Fancam, a website where stadium crowd shots are posted, showed Garcetti wearing a mask as he watched the game from his seat. He sat next to one of his appointees — Airport Commissioner Sean Burton — who wasn’t wearing a mask. Several other men in the group with Burton and Garcetti are also seen maskless.

Burton didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time the mayor has been observed maskless at a Rams game. Garcetti posed with a group of dignitaries at Sofi in September 2021 in another photo posted by Johnson.


Richard Carpiano, professor of public policy and a public health scientist at UC Riverside, said, “It’s not sustainable and advisable to hold your breath.”

Carpiano declined to debate the risk of infection while holding one’s breath, but said Garcetti should have worn a mask in the photos.

“So much about politics is about public relations and leading by example,” Carpiano said.

Garcetti appeared Wednesday with other officials at the stadium to talk about safety precautions before the Feb. 13 Super Bowl.

“I’ll continue wearing my mask at every game, and I’ve been proud to be at every single game. It’s funny, on the way out I had friends who said, ‘You seem like the only guy who was wearing the mask the entire game,’” Garcetti said.

The mask requirement for outdoor stadiums, under an order issued in L.A. County last August, was criticized as unnecessary this week by county Supervisor Kathryn Barger after photos emerged of many fans maskless.