As BOK Center employees worked to mitigate risk of COVID-19 spread at the President's June 20 rally, his reelection staff set about removing safety warnings.
Hours before President Donald Trump took the stage last Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for his first rally in the COVID-19 era, arena workers were busy labeling thousands of seats with “Do Not Sit Here Please!” stickers to promote social distancing, part of a new safety protocol at the arena known as VenueShield.
Campaign staff quickly radioed over to an executive at ASM Global and asked the arena to stop labeling the seats. In fact, "they also told us that they didn't want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue," says Doug Thornton, executive vp for ASM Global, who oversees nearly 100 arenas across five continents for the venue management company created by the 2019 merger of AEG and SMG.
Thorton said ASM was simply following the company’s new VenueShield program, developed with doctors, industry experts and infectious disease specialists to prevent the spread of coronavirus at ASM’s 325 venues worldwide. The event was general admission-only meaning all seats were first come, first serve. The stickers were a mandatory component of VenueShield, ASM continued stickering every other seat when something unexpected happened: “The campaign went through and removed the stickers,” says Thornton.
A video created by a third party and reviewed by Billboard shows Trump staffers methodically walking the aisles of BOK Center and peeling the three-inch square stickers from thousands of chairs ahead of the “Make America Great Again” rally. (Trump’s campaign did not respond to Billboard’s request for comment.)