The world’s top bull riding and rodeo athletes will head to Las Vegas for a historic western sports weekend in the Entertainment Capital of the World June 11-13 as PBR (Professional Bull Riders) welcomes fans back into the arena for the Unleash The Beast Las Vegas Invitational and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Showdown in Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The pairing of the world’s leading bull riding league with the only national touring all-Black rodeo will mark several milestones:
- PBR will for the first time co-produce the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, bringing fans an event that includes Bareback Riding, Tie Down Roping, Bull Dogging, Ladies Barrel racing, Ladies Steer Undecorating, Bull Riding and Junior Break Away on Sunday, June 13.
- The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo will be broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on CBS Television Network on Saturday, June 19 – Juneteenth – becoming the first all-Black rodeo to be televised on national broadcast television.
In early February, PBR announced a partnership with the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) to create new events, exposure, and opportunities for the largest and longest-running rodeo celebrating Black Western sports athletes.
“PBR aligned with BPIR to help expand their reach and give talented rodeo athletes new opportunities in new cities, venues, and broadcast outlets,” said Sean Gleason, Commissioner and CEO of PBR. “We’re thrilled to see our vision come to life in with this great historic rodeo in Las Vegas paired with our premier series and carried on CBS.”
“Our mission is to educate people about the talented and skilled black cowboys and cowgirls who not only compete in the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, but historically, have made significant contributions to American history,” said Valeria Howard-Cunningham, President of BPIR. “Showcasing an all-Black rodeo on CBS Television Network on a PBR event weekend will be a proud and shining moment for our athletes, our organization, and the entire sport of rodeo. This will be one of the most important events in our 37-year history.”
The Legend Bill Pickett
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo began in 1984, named for famous rodeo “bulldogger” Bill Pickett (1870-1932), who was the first African American inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame and is credited with helping to bridge the racial divide at the end of the Civil War in 1865. BPIR thought it important to pay homage to Bill Pickett and make his name more prevalent by naming their rodeo after Bill Pickett.
Pickett was the second of 13 children born to Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave. He left school in the 5th grade in Texas to become a ranch hand and invented the technique of bulldogging, the skill of springing from his horse, grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground.
Pickett would become known for his tricks and stunts at local country fairs, and with his four brothers, he formed The Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. The Pickett name soon became synonymous with successful rodeos.
“We are excited about the partnership between PBR and the Bill Pickett Invitational and their efforts to celebrate Black rodeo athletes,” said Dan Weinberg, Executive Vice President, Programming, CBS Sports. “Developing and showcasing diverse programming is a top priority at CBS Sports and we are proud to air the first-ever national broadcast of an all-Black rodeo, on CBS on Juneteenth.”
“When you think of the most significant moments involving Black cowboys and rodeo, there is Bill Pickett developing what would become the sport of tie-down roping, the American Black Cowboy Association hosting an all-Black rodeo at Downing Stadium in Harlem 50 years ago this year, Myrtis Dightman becoming the first Black rodeo cowboy to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, Charlie Sampson becoming the first to win a PRCA world title, and Fred Whitfield winning multiple PRCA world titles.
But seeing a Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on network television – there is no greater moment in the past 100 years,” said Keith Ryan Cartwright, the author of Black Cowboys of Rodeo.
PBR has been a leader throughout the health crisis in establishing protocols for safe and responsible events. PBR was the first major professional sport in North America to welcome fans back to indoor arenas with new safety protocols in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in July 2020 following the COVID-19 related shutdown, and also the first to offer a professional sporting event at full indoor-arena capacity when returning to Sioux Falls on April 9-11.
PBR is committed to continuing to create a safe and responsible environment for all fans in attendance.
The bull riding action begins at 7:45 p.m. PT on Friday, June 11 and 6:45 p.m. PT on Saturday, June 12. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo will follow on Sunday, June 13 and begin at 12:45 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the three days of nonstop action go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, April 21 and can be purchased by calling PBR at (800) 732-1727, by visiting pbr.com or axs.com. Prices range from $20.45 to $140.25.