CBS is set to air the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) on June 19 (that’s Juneteenth, btw). This marks the first time in history that an all-Black rodeo will be carried on national broadcast television.
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created in 1984 by the late, great Lu Vason (who promoted the iconic Pointer Sisters and other entertainment acts), after he observed a lack of Black competitors at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. Vason’s all-Black rodeo association was named after the legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, who originated the rodeo event called “bulldogging’. After Vason’s passing in 2015, his wife, Valeria Howard-Cunningham, began working to keep the legacy alive.
The BPIR is now in its 37th year of educating, entertaining and connecting communities across the country. This is much more than a competition for Black western athletes. BPIR events educate, inspire and celebrate the black cowboys and cowgirls who have made significant contributions to American history.
The BPIR will take place in Las Vegas at the MGM Garden Arena on June 13 and will air on CBS on June 19.
This is all possible following a partnership announced in February in which PBR (Professional Bull Riders), owned by Endeavor, is pairing its events with the Bill Pickett rodeo and using its relationships to put the sport on television.
PBR was featured in the SnapChat docuseries “Life by the Horns,” which followed PBR star Ezekiel Mitchell in his quest to become the first Black PBR world champion).
Fred Whitfield, the most accomplished Black rodeo cowboy of all-time, will set up shop in the broadcast booth for the telecast. Additionally, Emmy-winning actor and known horse whisperer Obba Babatunde (The Celestine Prophecy, The Manchurian Candidate, The Notebook, John Q, Philadelphia).