Welfare Cowboys: The Truth about Rodeo's Addiction to Government Handouts

Self-manufactured rodeo lore would have you believe that rodeo folks are strong, independent, all-American types who rely on nothing but their own strength of character to succeed against all odds. Rodeo announcers will go on with the pitch and fervor of a religious zealot about how the rodeo contestant gets no support other than what he or she earns, and the difficulties rodeo people endure in maintaining Western tradition, culture and history. This hype is backed by propaganda in rodeo programs and on rodeo websites.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is that the very existence of the rodeo world is depends on societal handouts. Some of those handouts come in the form of corporate sponsorships and/or advertising dollars from companies such as Bank of the West, Dodge Trucks, Coca-Cola, Wrangler Jeans, Budweiser Beer, Super 8, etc. These companies want their brand names noticed, and they have very few standards to limit what depths they will sink to in order to accomplish that mission. The rodeo industry takes full advantage of this, and the marketing departments of rodeo associations in large part keep rodeos alive, including very poorly attended events, by maintaining a flow of cash from sponsors.

Rodeo's corporate sponsors are companies who are willing to market their wares by any means possible, with little if any consideration of ethical or moral boundaries. But then there are the sponsors who never approved of their hard-earned money going to support animal abuse. Most American taxpayers have never and will never attend a rodeo. Those who have attended will likely do so only once, as well-adjusted people with full lives have better things to do than to watch someone with a John Wayne fetish beat up on a 3-4 month-old calf in a moronic attempt to prove his manhood and avoid a real job.

Hundreds of rodeo committees across the United States exist to plan rodeos in their communities, and as it turns out, many of those committees are listed as not-for-profit organizations. Additionally, some local governments offer their city facilities at reduced rates for the rodeos, while others simply allow the rodeo to operate for free.

The Day of the Cowboy

There have been other attempts to give rodeos a governmental helping hand. In 2005 the US Senate approved, and President Bush signed bill proclaiming a "Day of the Cowboy." This was a naked effort to help rodeos to attract more corporate sponsorship money. The proclamation stated that rodeo was the sixth more watched sport in the nation, a dubious claim at best, without mentioning that most televised rodeos are broadcast because their time is paid for by the rodeo associations, and of course, some of that money comes from the American taxpayer.

The Olympic Rodeo

The 2002 Winter Olympics are another example of government-funded rodeo. When humane organizations worldwide cried out against a rodeo being part of the cultural festivities, government pulled all the stops to prop up an event that violated the Olympic charter and was the most divisive part of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The FBI was used to suppress and persecute humane supporters. Just months after the 911 homicide attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists, the FBI was spending its time following a truck equipped with video screens that protested the upcoming Olympic rodeo by showing rodeo video footage. The FBI agents worked to goad various local police departments into harassing activists by spreading false stories of supposed bomb threats against the Olympics, while having full knowledge that the claims were false. When news of the FBI disinformation campaign came to light and activists called for an internal investigation, the FBI refused.

Large numbers of riot police were assembled around the perimeter of the facility where the Olympic rodeo was held. The police at times outnumbered the activists who peacefully protested the event. Additionally, a military attack helicopter hovered over the rodeo arena during each of the three performances. In the end, the only people who broke any laws were rodeo supporters, some of whom harassed and threatened the peaceful, law-abiding protesters.

The Olympic rodeo, originally planned as a world class "coming out party" for the so-called sport of rodeo, was instead a poorly attended affair, especially the time and effort put forth by both the rodeo industry and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to make it successful. In the final weeks before the three-day event, tickets were being given away in a last ditch effort to make the lack of public interest less apparent. Salt Lake Organizing Committee head Mitt Romney, a wealthy politician with presidential aspirations, admitted during the run-up to the Olympics that the rodeo controversy was the issue that most dogged him. However, a book Romney subsequently wrote about his trials and tribulations and self-proclaimed victorious efforts to make the 2002 Winter Olympics a success were absolutely devoid of any mention whatsoever of the Olympic rodeo or its controversy.

In January 2006 New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson earned a special place as a rodeo welfare provider when he announced he would provide over three quarter of a million dollars to promote rodeos in New Mexico. Humane organizations cried "foul" out of concern that Richardson was supporting animal abuse, but they were yet to learn the true meaning of the word. A few weeks later, Richardson pledged $16 million for an indoor-outdoor equestrian facility for rodeo events and to improve local fair facilities used for rodeos statewide.

New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the nation. The state faces massive challenges including problems with deficient bridges, dams, drinking water supplies, wastewater management, schools and roads. Untold billions of dollars are needed to address these issues. But the needs of New Mexico's citizens obviously took a back seat to the selfish desires of Governor Richardson's cronies in rodeo.

A long and tax-hungry history

The foundation of rodeo's welfare addiction might be found in another welfare recipient, the American cattle industry. The addiction of the cattle industry to free government land, free water and bountiful tax breaks is well established. Americans have little if any understanding about how much their cheap hamburgers and steaks really cost them. Nor do they have a say as to how much of their taxes go to these welfare cowboys. The politicians who accept campaign contributions from the meat industry go well out of their way to protect their sponsors, with little consideration for the interests of the mere voters who put them in power.

The fact is that for all of its bluster about its supposed popularity, and for all the self-serving hype about the independence of those involved, rodeo is a welfare addict incapable of standing on its own. If rodeo people were truly supported by the public, all of this tax-funded welfare from unscrupulous public servants would be unnecessary. For that matter, if rodeo people were the strong, independent, all-American types they try to pretend they are, they not only wouldn’t need this kind of welfare -- they wouldn’t accept it if it was offered.

The reality, however, is that in addition to being animal abusers; rodeo people are welfare addicts and freeloaders on the public dole. Unethical "public servants" and corporate sponsors notwithstanding, most of the public recognizes these phony cowboys for what they are -- clowns in a Western-theme circus.

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