Calling All Cowboys
Our Western way of life is under attack. There is an ordinance gaining traction in Los Angeles that is a serious threat to the sport of rodeo and all Western sports—bull riding, barrel racing and yes, even team roping jackpots included. While the most common reaction to this is to sling insults toward “the left-coast crazies,” that will only play into these people’s hand, confirm their fiction-based accusations about those who wear cowboy hats and sink our own beloved Western-world ship.
We all must act now, and in a calm, united, professional and proactive manner while proving our points, which include the genuine love the cowboy community has for our livestock, and the positive cultural and financial impacts the sport of rodeo has on our society today.
You can read the vague, broad language of the proposed ordinance amending Section 53.00 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to add a definition for “a rodeo” and adding LAMC Section 53.39.2 to prohibit the use of harmful practices, techniques and devices at rodeos for yourself. Certain types of tie-downs, spurs and “lariats or lassos” are specifically named.
This may all sound silly, and like it doesn’t apply to those of us who do not live in Los Angeles. But make no mistake—the threat is real. There is crossover between the people with rodeo in their crosshairs and those who ended the circus. And if you can’t easily see how a ban on rodeo and virtually all Western activities in Los Angeles could spread straight north to Sacramento and result in a statewide ban, and with that precedent head domino-style to urban centers the likes of Denver, Houston, San Antonio and New York City—well, wake up. Please. Before it’s too late.
Given the 2-22-22 Call to Action to Save Western Sports in Los Angeles, it’s the perfect time for our cowboy community to have this conversation and get in gear.
“It was amazing to see all of the organizations—the PBR (Professional Bull Riders), PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), charros, actors, rodeo committees, influencers and fans—come together in a stance to stop the ban that the LA County Commissioner is trying to put in place,” said five-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho, who’s lived his whole life on the Central Coast of California. “These small thinkers (who are trying to shut rodeo and Western events down) don’t understand the positive impact the Western and equine way of life have on people.”
One of the lifelong cowboys, actors and influencers who showed up to speak at the 2-22-22 rodeo rally in LA was Yellowstone’s Forrie J Smith. Mounted officers from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Police were on hand to help keep the peace in the case of counter-cowboy protesters. They, too, will be threatened if this ordinance is passed.
“Every kind of cowboy was there, which was pretty cool,” Luke said. “Based on attendance, it’s obvious that cowboys from every part of our American culture realize and understand how important our Western way of life is to this state, our country and the world.”
Rodeo Committee Contributions
The first California Rodeo Salinas was held the summer of 1911, and Big Week remains one of the greatest time-tested traditions in the Golden State. Sadly, this cowboy committee has been burdened with expensive legal fees for many years in defense of animal-rights attacks. In fact, the ultimate team roping rodeo has spent a fortune defending that event itself. They are now expending every possible effort and resource to fight the threat to our sport’s very existence.
I’ve talked to countless cowboy people on this subject over the years. I recently paid close attention to a Cowboy Channel panel discussion moderated by my longtime friend, colleague and television producer Jeff Medders. One guest was Tim Baldwin, who serves as California Rodeo general counsel and also chairs the committee’s livestock welfare committee.
“Anytime you see new ordinances passed that restrict, or in this case ban rodeo, it’s something we’re very serious about,” Baldwin said. “This ordinance in LA goes much further than the term ‘rodeo,’ including three or more events, and would encompass stand-alone team ropings and barrel races. The device ban would make team roping unlawful. As a recreational team roper, I’m really upset that LA is trying to make team roping against the law.
“We cannot have this ordinance pass, spread or gain momentum. We’ve seen this in the past with the circus ban that came out of LA, then spread to Sacramento as a statewide law. What’s important here is to stop this in LA, so it’s not adopted in other cities and states. Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the United States of America. To have that city pass a rodeo ban is something we can’t stand for.”