If you claim to be a dedicated and knowledgeable crusader for the preservation, elevation and expansion of “Black culture”, then you have to know 22-year-old professional bull rider Ezekiel Mitchell, the only African-American bull rider participating at the elite level of the sport in the Professional Bull Riders, Inc.
Mitchell, from Houston, Texas was ranked No. 1 in September and is currently No. 15 in the PBR rankings. His explosion on the PBR scene is the stuff of legends.
So far, in four events this 2020 season, he has finished 10th at the Midway Auto Dealership PBR Challenge and 14th at the Chicago Invitational this past weekend.
The Shadow League spoke with Zeke before the competition in an attempt to dig a bit deeper, past the basic story that we already know about his made-for-Hollywood journey and his barrier-breaking participation in a predominantly white sport.
Shadow League: What do you hope to accomplish in your second PBR season now that the novelty of being a Black bull rider has worn off.
Ezekiel Mitchell: I’m no longer a rookie and I’m looking to be a contender for a World title now…and that’s pretty much what I’m shooting for right now is to become a World Champion.
You have 11 siblings, which one is your favorite?
Zeke: My sister right under me is my favorite, Shacara. She’s been my best friend for a long time.
Which one would you categorize as your “lovable nemesis”?
Zeke: I guess if I had to pick the love-hate deal it would be my older sister Jaquese.
You’re a bull rider so it’s hard to top that kind of daily excitement, but which one of your siblings has the second most Interesting job?
Zeke: Shacara works in a women’s prison, that’s pretty interesting. In Lawrence prison.
Who is the best all-around athlete in the family?
Zeke: Pretty much all of us are pretty good athletes… well rounded. We all played sports growing up, but I guess me. I played football and ran track and cross country.
Which sibling would make a good bull rider?
Zeke: I have a little brother named Niko. He has everything it takes to make a good bull rider. He doesn’t have a lot of fear or backup in him, so I feel he’d make a good bull rider because in order to ride you have to be fearless and resilient.
What’s your biggest accomplishment to date in PBR?
Zeke: Just getting on the tour. I really feel like I haven’t done anything near where my goals are. Just being able to compete with my idols is an accomplishment in itself. Making PBR World Finals was a huge accomplishment in itself.
What’s the weirdest situation you’ve ever been in with a fan?
That’s a good question…I guess one time I was in the airport and this lady had me sign a whole bunch of stuff for her cousin. She didn’t want anything for herself. She literally bought items out of the store so I could sign them and she even purchased sharpies for me to sign so that was kind of strange and cool at the same time.
What kind of music stays in your airpods?
Mostly country music, like Kelly Johnson and Chris Stapelton, but my playlist is all over the place. I like old R-&-B too like Jagged Edge and Jacquees.
Top 3 Movies ?
Zeke: 8 seconds, Tombstone and Adam Sandler’s Water Boy.
Celebrity Crush ?
Zeke: Miranda Lambert
What Instagram/Twitter account do you frequent?
Zeke: Just PBR, I’m a big fan of the sport I don’t really look at much else. Young bull riders coming up. Anything related to craft.
Someone you met that you are a big fan of?
Zeke: JP Mauney was my oh crap moment meeting people. (J.B. Mauney has earned 7.5 million in his career in just prize money and made over $10 million if you include endorsements and other opportunities. He’s basically the face of PBR).
I met him in Denver, Co. two years ago.
What was that conversation like?
Zeke: Pretty much just telling me how he was watching me for a minute and I need to get my head together and go get it and don’t let anyone stop me and get where I need to be. It really inspired me.
Favorite Football Team?
Zeke: Houston Texans just because I’m from Houston.
What’s needed to get more African-American athletes involved in PBR?
Zeke: In order for there to be more African-Americans — or anybody — in the sport the PBR has to be taken to more of a mainstream media and people have to actually see it.
If you don’t have CBSSports Network or don’t get a chance to see it you’ll never know. If we can get the sport to the mainstream light, I’m sure that a lot of kids would love to participate. Just need more people to stumble across it.
How will the sport accept an influx of African-Americans?
Zeke: Don’t know how much they like or will hate it, but times change and they have to accept it. A lot of people don’t like me. I’m gonna be me. I’m here to ride bull and that’s about it
RAPID RESPONSE WITH ZEKE MITCHELL
Beyonce or Rihanna ?
Megan Thee Stallion or Cardi B?
Zeke: Megan Thee Stallion
Obama or Oprah?
Zeke: That’s a hard one. Going with Oprah. She just has been an influential part of my life because my grandma used to watch her so I grew up on Oprah.
Ll Nas X or Lil Baby?
Zeke: Lil Baby because Lil Nas X’s music ain’t too bad but I don’t consider it real country music. But if they want to consider it country go ahead because there’s already a lot of stuff on the radio I don’t consider country. I don’t like the way he portrayed himself as a cowboy when he’s really not. Whenever you don’t ride a horse in your ‘Old Town Road’ video and you’re riding a fake horse I don’t know …He could of had me in the video I would have done it.
If Zeke keeps blazing a trail in PBR, he will continue to gain recognition for his unique existence in the bull riding space. Maybe he will be in a Lil Nas X video sooner than we think.