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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Gives Rodeo Cowboys a Six-Week Pass

DALLAS (CN) - Cowboys who formed a rival rodeo association may compete in events sanctioned by the allegedly monopolistic Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, for the next six weeks anyway, a federal judge ruled.

The newly formed Elite Rodeo Association and rodeo athletes Trevor Bazile, Bobby Mote and Ryan Motes filed an antitrust class action against the PRCA in November last year. They claim the PRCA quickly enacted bylaws banning ERA athletes from competing in PRCA-sanctioned events after ERA was formed.

The ERA's first season begins this year and will culminate in a World Championship Rodeo at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas in November.

"PRCA's message is clear: If you want to compete in PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, it's the PRCA way or the highway," the 40-page complaint stated. "The PRCA bylaw is intended to force members to make a Hobson's choice: i.e., to participate in any PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, a rodeo athlete must do so exclusively and stop participating in any ERA rodeo. PRCA is bullying its own membership into toeing the PRCA line by threatening any member who wants to be involved in ERA with being locked out of PRCA rodeos."

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn ordered that all members of the proposed class can compete in PRCA-sanctioned events until Feb. 12, regardless of whether they were issued current PRCA membership.

According to the 3-page order, the PRCA agreed to the interim inclusion of plaintiff class members after a Dec. 29 hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction against their exclusion from PRCA events. Lynn has yet to rule on that motion, according to court records.

The interim inclusion of the plaintiff class members does not include events in the PRCA's Wrangler Champions Challenge events. In the event the plaintiffs' motion is denied, the PRCA competitions in which class members participate will not count for prize money or PRCA rankings, the order states.

The plaintiffs say they want to co-exist with PRCA, and compare their group to smaller regional rodeo associations and to the successful Professional Bull Riders sanctioning body, formed in the early 1990s by the top 20 PRCA bull riders at the time.

The PRCA describes itself as the largest and oldest rodeo-sanctioning body in the world. It holds more than 600 multiple-event rodeos per year. The plaintiffs contend they have been longtime, loyal, dues-paying members of the PRCA. They claim there is no legitimate or competitive reason for the PRCA's new bylaws.

"No other sport threatens to kick out its top athletes and voluntarily chooses to lose revenue from those athletes in the form of membership fees and all other forms of revenue from fan and sponsorship interest," the complaint states. "The PRCA's new bylaws only serve to hurt the sport by reducing output as ERA will add events, fans, sponsorships, and television interest to rodeo in the United States now and in the future."

PRCA spokesman Jim Bainbridge said in November that the group will "vigorously defend its position" in the dispute.

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