Fan Support Needed as Coalition Launches to Save Western Sports in LA

By: Andrew Ginagola

Imagine a politician doesn’t like baseball, so he writes a law to ban second base because a player can trip and break an ankle on the material protruding from the dirt.

Without that base, baseball cannot exist.

That about sums up the bizarre logic of the Los Angeles City Council, which has drafted an ordinance to outlaw Western sports equipment like flank straps and rowels on spurs.

Without that protective equipment, there can be no bull riding, rodeo, or equestrian events in the nation’s second largest city.

If passed, the motion will ban PBR from STAPLES Center, an arena it has sold out while bringing millions of dollars of economic activity to Los Angeles.

The ordinance will also cancel the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which provides opportunities to Black athletes, shares the largely forgotten history of Black cowboys and cowgirls, and inspires youth.

While the City Council’s overall desire to protect animals is admirable, the glaring problem is not only these drastic unintended consequences. Rulebooks are already in place to ensure the safety and welfare of the animal athletes, including the use of soft flank straps and dull rowels.

The flank strap comes nowhere near a bull’s testicles

The flank strap is a soft cotton rope to encourage a genetically predisposed bull to buck.

Contrary to common misconceptions, the bull’s genitals are never touched by the soft rope, which is tied around a bull’s flank – on the lower torso near the hind legs – just snug enough for the bull to know it’s there but loose enough where he believes he can kick it off. Early on, it trains bulls to kick upward and outward with their hind legs; later in a bull’s career, it’s the “go signal” that it’s time to perform.

The spurs of bull riders and rodeo athletes, inspected prior to each event, are dull and never hurt the animals who are treated like the rock stars of the sport.

A bull’s skin is seven times the thickness of human skin, and neither the flank strap nor the rowels and spurs harm or agitate a bull in any way.

As two-time world champion J.B. Mauney once said, “This sport ain’t animal cruelty; it’s human cruelty.”

While Mauney’s comment was in jest, in his inimitable way he was making a very valid point about who gets injured and how the pampered animals who make the sport go are treated like members of the family.

PBR Stock Contractor Chad Berger showing some love to Beaver Creek Beau

PBR bulls, bred to buck, get the best food and care, work 8 or 16 seconds a weekend, go to stud after retiring from competition, and live out their life on a peaceful ranch. They pass of natural causes at an average age of 14-15 years old.

Compare that to a bovine not fortunate enough to make it to the PBR, who enters the food supply at 3 years old.

By that measure alone, all those who consider themselves animal lovers and protectors should strongly support professional bull riding.

Since every scored PBR ride takes two athletes — human and animal — the performance of the bulls is crucial to selling tickets and drawing eyeballs to the television broadcast.

Mauney, the richest bull rider in Western sports, would be first to say that quite simply, without happy, high-performing bulls, he’d be back in a ball-peen factory, where as a young rider he once labored miserably for a few months while recovering from a lacerated liver.

Dr. Nolton Pattio, Official Veterinarian for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, put it another way: “Rodeo people are animal people. We live with, and earn our living by, our livestock. Animal care, health, safety, and welfare is our greatest concern.”

The LA legislation, fraught with harmful unintended consequences, goes well beyond the prospect of canceling PBR, the all-Black Bill Pickett rodeo, a November Pepe Aguilar rodeo concert at STAPLES Center, and even Olympics equestrian events when the games come to LA in 2028.

What’s even more damaging is an expected ripple effect across the country, should the animal welfare mistruths gain a stamp of approval, pushing the first domino over. Western sports events in other cities will be in immediate danger.

As unnecessary and culturally tone deaf as this legislation is, particularly in a city with a Spanish name where generations of families ride horses together, many fans believe what happens in Southern California won’t affect the sport they love where they live.

The herd mentality of rubber-stamped city ordinances playing to the whims of a fact-free fringe proves otherwise.

“Some people say we should abandon LA and go to more friendly places. That kind of thinking has allowed the Western lifestyle and the values we stand for to erode in many places. We all need to come together and stand for our beliefs, everywhere,” said Sean Gleason, Commissioner and CEO of PBR.

To combat this threat, and counter a jet stream of confusing misinformation, PBR has joined and is helping lead an unprecedented Western sports coalition to provide education and action on an issue affecting all of Western sports.

It’s not often fans see PBR and PRCA standing side by side. This issue is that important.

The new Western Justice coalition has been rallying wide-ranging support while meeting with members of the LA City Council to educate a receptive group which had initially neglected to research the equipment used in western sports, the economic impact of these popular events, or their rich cultural heritage in Southern California.

“Rodeo attendees who are Latinos love this sport, just like they love their horses. It’s about honoring tradition and being a part of something big and meaningful, to preserve the culture for our youth in Southern California, where generations ride alongside their family members,” said Esteban Escobedo of Federacion Mexicana de Charreria, California (FMCH-CA), an active member of the new Western Justice coalition.

“This ordinance will prohibit charros to participate in local fairs, parades, Mexican Folk dance festivities, and concerts. This will also result in boycotts of local businesses, concerts, and other events in Los Angeles because it will be considered discrimination against the Latino Heritage.

Western Justice needs the help of all fans to help reverse this bad legislation.

“We must stand together to stop this unnecessary and detrimental ordinance,” Gleason said. “The easiest thing to do is to make your voice heard. Please take a few minutes to write to the LA City Councilmembers to state your love and our love for animals, and your respectful opposition to an unnecessary and harmful ordinance.”

Fans should visit this link from Western Justice for information on writing to the City Council members and help to save Western sports in Los Angeles:

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