PBR responds to Day of the Cowboy resolution failure

Professional Bull Riders CEO Sean Gleason calls for Montana to recognize the fourth Saturday in July as the "National Day of the Cowboy" during the second day of the PBR Billings Invitational at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Saturday. 

BILLINGS — During the second round of the Professional Bull Riders Billings Invitational on Saturday, five people walked onto the dirt to voice their support for cowboys.

The crowd at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark didn’t need convincing. Rather, the group of five wanted to reassure the crowd that the PBR wasn’t going to leave Billings anytime soon, and they wanted to send a message to the Montana House of Representatives.

Earlier this week, the House defeated a resolution that would have made Montana the 13th state to participate in the National Day of the Cowboy. Sean Gleason, the CEO of the PBR, threatened to cancel the 2020 Billings Invitational in response. But a threat is all it was. The PBR will remain in Billings for the foreseeable future.

“I’d never abandon the fans and the great cowboys in the state of Montana that have been showing up for us for 24 years,” Gleason told 406mtsports.com on Sunday. “I also wanted to send a clear message to the state legislature that there could be consequences.”

Senate Joint Resolution 10 was defeated 44-56 by the House on Thursday, April 4 after it passed the Senate 90-5 on March 19, the Great Falls Tribune reported. Members of the House debated the gender equality, or lack thereof, involved with the resolution. Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings, suggested the creation of a Montana Cowboy and Cowgirl Day, per the Tribune.

Gleason took notice, and he was not happy. On Wednesday, he shared a PBR promotional video entitled “Our Commitment to Cowboys in Montana” on Facebook, and he attached a 700-word post expressing his displeasure with the Montana House. His first line reads, “This morning I decided to cancel our event in Billings, MT in 2020. {Read the whole post}”

The parenthetical was important. After criticizing the legislators, explaining why he supports the National Day of the Cowboy and decrying the “PC culture we have devolved into,” Gleason wrote that the PBR would indeed return to Billings in 2020 for its 25th year — the longest running relationship between city and PBR.

Gleason said he didn’t make any major changes or additions to the Facebook post after he pressed publish. The possibility of leaving Billings was never seriously on the table.

“I definitely thought about it,” Gleason said Sunday, “but I’d never abandon our cowboy brothers and sisters in the state of Montana.”

Gleason mentioned the millions of dollars the PBR Billings Invitational injects into the state, as well as the large attendance figures at MetraPark over the weekend (around 25,000 to 30,000 each year, he said). He called Montana “a beautiful state” and praised Billings.

“The event fits like a glove, so that’s what disappointing about the vote of the legislature,” he said. “Their politically correct reasons for voting down this legislation and the reasons that they gave, I think they did it without thinking there were any consequences, but they offended a whole lot of cowboys and people in the western lifestyle including me.”

Gleason said similar things at Metra on Saturday night. Standing next to him in front of the bucking shoots were announcer Brandon Bates, Rep. Theresa Manzella (R-Hamilton), Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) and Rep. Barry Usher (R-Billings), who all supported Gleason’s stance and received loud cheers from the crowd. Manzella also spoke and echoed Gleason’s sentiments.

The PBR did not have a direct relationship with the National Day of the Cowboy before last week, but Gleason said he joined the movement after the Day’s organizers reached out to him. His and their goal is to get the Day, observed on the fourth Saturday in July, passed in all 50 states.

The cover photo on Gleason’s Facebook page is a PBR advertisement that features a woman in a camouflage hat standing next to two lines of text: “Cows not required. Boys optional.” The ad, as well as the video that accompanied Gleason’s Wednesday post, is part of the PBR’s “Be Cowboy” campaign that was launched in February.

Gleason said the timing of the campaign and the SJR10 defeat is not coincidental, even though the campaign began months before the resolution was proposed.

“(The campaign is) really born from the fact that across the United States, there’s been attacks on the Western lifestyle and cowboy,” he said Sunday. “There are forces at work that are trying to tear down the history of the cowboy, and so we launched that campaign in the face of those attacks.”

One of those “attacks” includes backlash to the University of Wyoming’s “The World Needs More Cowboys” slogan.

Gleason and other supporters of SJR10 have highlighted the historical diversity of cowboys. Some members of the House argued on April 4 that the word “cowboy” transcended gender, according to the Tribune.

The National Day of the Cowboy is already inclusive, Gleason believes, and he wants Montana lawmakers to know that the PBR is willing to take its money elsewhere if they don’t agree.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores_BG

Load comments