EDITOR’S NOTE: The story that appears below was presented by a group of contestants that has created a Facebook page to present its case. For more information, check out the Support Rodeo Contestants page.
A group of the top cowboys and cowgirls have been working diligently behind the scenes to try and protect the sport of professional rodeo. Much has been written lately about the challenging negotiations between the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Las Vegas, which has been the home of the National Finals Rodeo for the last 29 years.
As these negotiations occurred, a group of the top contestants in the sport of professional rodeo have come together to make sure that the integrity of their profession is not lost in the negotiations over the millions of dollars created each year by the fans who flock to the NFR to see the top cowboys and cowgirls compete for the world championship buckles.
Operating under a tight timeline the group recently proposed changes to the PRCA structure in exchange for the commitment of the cowboys to provide greater support to PRCA sanctioned rodeos.
A key member of the group is eleven-time all-around world champion Trevor Brazile, who has a record 19 gold buckles.
“We went to the PRCA with a proposal supported by the top cowboys that would have strengthened the PRCA; unfortunately our proposal was not accepted,” Brazile said. “We appreciate what the PRCA has done for the sport in the past, but at this point we feel the time has come for the top contestants to be more directly involved in the future of our sport.
“We are forming a new organization to work together with committees and sponsors to make sure that the sport of professional rodeo continues to deliver the highest quality product to our great fans.”
K.C. Jones is one of the leaders behind the new organization.
“After an exhaustive effort of the top cowboys to help save the current structure, we now realize it’s time for a change and that there is a huge opportunity for the contestants of professional rodeo to work together to advance the sport,” said Jones, a seven-time NFR steer wrestling qualifier. “We are extremely excited to showcase the best contestants at the best venues to give the fans the top quality action they want.”
The support is extensive.
“This is important to us because we are the cowboys that people come to see compete for the world championships,” said legendary tie-down roper Fred Whitfield, who won eight world championships and has qualified for 20 NFRs. “What people need to understand is that we are also professional athletes who take the history and integrity of our sport extremely seriously. We have the greatest appreciation for our fans and we have come together to make sure that our fans continue to have a chance to see the top contestants in our sport battle it out every year for a real world championship.”
Four-time world champion bareback rider Bobby Mote, who has 13 NFR qualifications, said he became involved to protect the future of the sport.
“We did everything we could to work the PRCA to create the change that we believe this sport needed to go forward,” Mote said. “But now it is time for a new direction and this group of cowboys is focused on working with everyone who wants to see professional rodeo get to the next level, while still protecting the heritage of our sport.”
Said Brazile, “Ultimately this is an exciting time for our sport. It is an honor for me to wear a gold buckle and each time I put one on, I appreciate the weight and importance of the heritage of this sport. As the sport of professional rodeo enters a new era we want to make sure that the integrity of the gold buckle is never compromised and that we provide our contestants, fans and sponsors with the greatest world championship rodeo possible.”