By Luke Creasy
The Elite Rodeo Athletes, the ERA, started their association in an effort to make rodeo pay to play. The basic plan, cowboys are the owners, the money the association makes (by cowboys competing/entertaining) goes to the competing ownership. A great number of the top cowboys including “King of the Cowboys” Trevor Brazile took their renown off to start the new association, with the intent of still competing in PRCA rodeos… then October 1, 2015 the PRCA implemented new bylaws for the 2016 season to combat the rise of and basic player owner structure of the ERA.
PRCA’S new “Definition of Conflicting Rodeo Association,” became, “Conflicting Rodeo Associations are companies, partnerships, associations or other entities whose direct or indirect purpose is to produce, promote, and/or sanction professional rodeo contests in which contestants compete in two or more of the following events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping…”
The PRCA’s new bylaws regarding rodeo committees were, “Any rodeo committee and/or contracting party involved in producing a PRCA-sanctioned event agrees not to schedule, produce, promote or participate in a Competing Rodeo Event seventy-two hours before, during or seventy-two hours after a PRCA-sanctioned event…” This particular bylaw prevented the ERA from scooping up the Cinch Shoot Outs that are always in conjunction with PRCA rodeos, either before or after. It helped push the ERA to put on events in venues that either don’t have a PRCA rodeo or have one a different time of year. The ERA rodeos are part of what is called the Premier Tour which is as follows:
Redmond, OR March 25-26, Boise, ID April 1-2, Salt Lake City, UT April 8-9, Albuquerque, NM May 20-21, Sheridan, WY Sept 3, St. Louis, MO Sept 9-10, Atlanta, GA September 30-October 1, New Orleans, LA and October 7-8.
The ERA’s finals is in Dallas, TX November 9-13 at the American Airlines Center. This finals was the only concrete fact the ERA revealed to the public for some time. The Remaining ERA events, (the entire 8 event season), was just announced this winter, a mere 2 months before the first event. Before the enouncement of the Premier tour the ERA did release a roster for each event, but it has evolved over the last few months into the following lists:
Bareback Riding: Richmond Champion, Kaycee Feild, Austin Foss, Ryan Gray, Tilden Hooper, William Lowe, Justin McDaniel, Bobby Mote, Steven Peebles, Steven Dent and Wes Stevenson.
Saddle Bronc Riding: Chet Johnson, Isaac Diaz, Chad Ferley, Bradley Harter, Taos Muncy, Cort Scheer, Wade Sundell, Zeke Thurston, Jesse Wright, Tyler Corrington and Spencer Wright.
Steer Wrestling: Bray Armes, Luke Branquinho, Hunter Cure, Dean Gorsuch, Stockton Graves, Kyle Irwin, Casey Martin, Sean Mulligan, Tyler Pearson and Todd Suhn.
Tie-Down Roping: Shane Hanchey, Monty Lewis, Trevor Brazile, Tuf Cooper, Clif Cooper, Cody Ohl, Matt Shiozawa, Stran Smith, Caleb Smidt, Fred Whitfield and Marty Yates.
Team Roping Headers: Jake Barnes, Derrick Begay, Trevor Brazile, Kaleb Driggers, Charley Crawford, Chad Masters, Turtle Powell, Nick Sartain, Clay Tryan, Aaron Tsinigine and Speed Williams.
Team Roping Heelers: Clay O’Brien Cooper, Jade Corkill, Travis Graves, Martin Lucero, Ryan Motes, Junior Nogueira, Cory Petska, Rich Skelton, Patrick Smith, Jhett Johnson and Kollin VonAhn.
Barrel Racing: Chayni Chamberlain, Callie Duperier, Taylor Jacob, Brittany Diaz, Charmayne James, Lisa Lockhart, Sarah Rose McDonald, Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, Kassidy Denison, Ashley Schafer and Fallon Taylor.
Bull Riding: Brant Atwood, Kanin Asay, Chandler Bownds, Cody Campbell, Brian Canter, Beau Hill, Neil Holmes, Zach Oakes, Ty Pozzobon, Caleb Sanderson and Wesley Silcox.
The PRCA’s most crucial blow to the ERA came in their new bylaw attacking ERA player/owners, the people listed above. The Bylaw reads as follows, “Any person applying for PRCA membership who is an officer, board member, employee or has an ownership or financial interest of any form in a Conflicting Rodeo Association shall not be issued a membership with the PRCA.”
The ERA, more specifically 4 time World Champion Bareback Rider Bobby Mote and 13 time World All-Around Champion Trevor Brazile filed a lawsuit against the PRCA over their new bylaws which was heard in court December 29, 2015. The ERA sought to temporarily and eventually permanently stop the PRCA’s enforcement of these new bylaws.
On February 4th U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn ruled in favor of the PRCA keeping any PRCA member from owning shares in the ERA. Judge Lynn stated, “Plaintiffs have not made a clear showing that they will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction, nor that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.” This meant the ERA cowboys who were at that time competing in PRCA rodeos were dropped from the leader boards, the money they had won, (that was sitting in escrow), was divvied out as though they had never competed, and they had to sign away their ERA shares and rebuy their PRCA cards if they wanted to compete in both. Cowboys can still compete in both, though they cannot be ERA owners and compete in the PRCA. Some have remained loyal, others have given up their shares. The ERA chose to drop their lawsuit after Judge Lynn’s preliminary ruling.
Barrel Racers, members of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, are not affected by the PRCA bylaws and can remain ERA owners and still compete in Barrel Racing at WPRA/PRCA rodeos.
There is a chance for those not on the original roster to earn their way into ERA competitions. The ERA announced a qualifying strategy for interested competitors this fall. In this qualifying strategy, halfway through this ERA season a “qualifying race” is to begin. In this race competitors join by registering at erarodeo.com. The registered athletes are then to choose 15 qualifying rodeos on their personal secured login page. They then earn points based on any paid place won at an ERA Qualifying Rodeo. Then the top 2 qualifiers earn a spot on the roster to compete at the World Championship in Dallas, TX this November.
The definition of a qualifying rodeo by the ERA: Must have all 7 standard rodeo disciplines, unless competition is an ERA Approved Event. It must have a minimum of $5,000 added in the event contestants are declaring points for. The rodeo may not have limits less than 36 entries per discipline. Can be any organization or open rodeo whose results are public and verifiable. The 2017 qualifying race is slated to begin the day after the ERA’s first World Championship November 14, 2016.
For those looking to verify facts on the ERA the best bet is to check out their Instagram page, @ERARODEO which seems to be the most up to date record of their activities, athletes and events.