06/14/21: Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo head discusses the org’s history and goals


Medias First Morning Read


Monday June 14, 2021

PBR’s recent partnership with the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo for the Unleash The Beast tour hit Las Vegas over the weekend, and will make history on CBS this Saturday at 1p when Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo – Vegas Showdown becomes the first all-Black rodeo to be carried on national broadcast television, running on Juneteenth. The long-running organization, now in year 37 in its history, is overseen by Valeria Howard-Cunningham, owner and President of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. Cynopsis Sports asked her about the legacy of the event and its future.

Howard-Cunningham on the legacy of the Bill Picket Invitational Rodeo: Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) was created by Lu Vason in 1984 to produce a platform for Black cowboys and cowgirls to challenge the false perception of the absence of Blacks in the development of the West. He wanted BPIR to be a tool to educate people on the Black West as well as to provide a rodeo platform to showcase their skills in a competitive environment.

Over the next 37 years, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has entertained audiences across the US, traveling to over 30 cities and entertaining over 5.5 million people. It is important to connect with the community, educate and inspire our youth, while entertaining audiences at the same time. Telling the untold story as we connect with the communities is the fuel that keeps BPIR going. Many people have shared how the BPIR rodeo has positively impacted them and the lives of their families. Having the community validate the importance of BPIR makes a difference and clearly says we are making a positive contribution to communities and society. We believe that is what life is all about! We all have a responsibility to elevate and educate each other about the reality and presence of Blacks in the West and rodeo.

On goals: Wikipedia says a goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan, commit to achieve and act upon. My goal then and today is the same, which is to continue the vision which has become BPIR legacy. As we have progressed, the fundamental goals have not changed, but the desire to elevate the rodeo to the next level and make it even better has. We have survived for 37 years staying focused on our mission and stand stronger than ever before. Today as it was then, our focus is to tell the story of Black Cowboys and Cowgirls with no fear or regret. I am always reminded of a 7-year-old boy who, as he was entering one of the rodeos, stopped in his tracks, put his hands on his hips, and said with his eyes wide open and with excitement, “There are Black Cowboys and Cowgirls!” Seeing him brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that we can change the world by just telling the story while entertaining audiences at the same time. That was a proud moment for him and for me as well.

We must never overlook our obligation to celebrate our history, inspire our youth, educate communities, and celebrate our heritage, even if others refuse to acknowledge it and tell it.

On partnering with PBR: I guess I would say, why not? We are both successful organizations in our own right. Bringing the two together as partners, we are stronger and the potential for both is far greater. We bring different things to the partnership table. We are learning from each other, and as a result will reach a larger and more diverse audience. I feel by taking what we have in common, understanding our differences and working together allows us to strengthen each other, which is exactly what the world needs more of today.

On accomplishments: I am most proud of the fact that we survived and are still growing as we move forward. Many people told us BPIR would never survive. When I took over as the leader of the organization, there were those that said, because you are a woman and a Black woman, BPIR will not last. We are not only still here, but stronger than ever. We continue to build off our past, always looking forward to an even brighter future, no matter the struggle. As with everything in life, there are struggles and obstacles to overcome. It is about how you approach them that determines your future. I chose an optimistic approach and see brightness ahead.

On running on broadcast TV on Juneteenth: As we celebrate Juneteenth, I am glad we can also celebrate our Black Cowboys and Cowgirls. The fans can expect to see talented and proud Black Cowboys and Cowgirls competing in the world of rodeo. They will see Black Cowboys and Cowgirls are REAL! I hope seeing this PBR/BPIR collaboration will help fans appreciate the sport of rodeo, and they will want to come to the next BPIR rodeo to experience it first-hand for a perspective changing experience.


Peacock is entering that ice and will now stream all remaining Stanley Cup Semifinal games, starting today at 9p with Game 1 in the Semifinal between the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights in addition to NBC Sports’ coverage on NBCSN or USA Network and NBC Sports digital platforms. The NY Islanders/Tampa Bay matchup begins on Tuesday at 8p. John Forslund will call the Montreal/Vegas matchup with analyst Joe Micheletti and Pierre McGuire, while Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Brian Boucher for Tuesday’s game.

FOX Sports rolled out plans for its Summer of Soccer, featuring nearly 300 hours of international competition including CONMEBOL Copa América 2021, 2021 WNT Send-Off Series, 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the 2021 MLS All-Star Game. The action opened yesterday with USA/Jamaica in the CONMEBOL Copa América 2021 tournament and concludes with the MLS All-Star Game on Aug. 25.

The NFL cemented its preseason lineup, and revealed the national television schedule for the newly-shortened preseason. Play begins on Aug. 5 with the NFL/Hall of Fame Game at 8p on FOX, showcasing the Steelers/Cowboys. Week two finds ESPN carrying both national games beginning Aug. 20 with the Chiefs/Cardinals at 8p, and the Jaguars/Saints on Aug. 23 at 8p. The final week has CBS carrying the Dolphins/Bengals on Aug. 29 at 4p, with NBC coming on right after at 8p with the Browns/Falcons.

Discovery sealed a long-term renewal of its multi-territory broadcast partnership with the French Tennis Federation for the French Open. The deal begins next year with a five-year span that will leverage its European sports network Eurosport, streaming platform Discovery+ as well as its free-to-air channels throughout the continent. The deal covers more than 50 territories, excluding France.

Speaking of France, Amazon landed broadcasting rights to France’s Ligue 1. Amazon will reportedly pay $302.6 million per year for domestic rights to eight matches from each round of Ligue 1 as well as $10.9 million — plus production costs of roughly $30.2 million — for all but two Ligue 2 matches.

MLB Network delivers Tatis: The Rise of El Niño – a new MLB Network Presents documentary presented by Gatorade showcasing how 22-year-old San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. established himself as one of Major League Baseball’s brightest stars. The program will debut on July 14 at 8p, the night after the 2021 MLB All-Star Game.

TUDN partnered with Grupo Televisa, Uforia and Universal Music Latin Entertainment to unveil the musical anthem that will grace the “Summer of Champions,” “Fútbol a la gente.” The song, performed by Puerto Rican star Guaynaa, featuring the Mexican cumbia band Los Ángeles Azules, and is a remix of the recently launched hit “Cumbia a la gente.” TUDN’s “Summer of Champions” features more than 120 soccer matches in 90 days, including the Euro 2020, Copa América 2021, CONCACAF Gold Cup, among other elite tournaments. “We are excited to partner with our Uforia team and Universal Music Latin Entertainment to bring fanáticos the perfect track to this year’s ‘Summer of Champions,’” said Juan Carlos Rodríguez, president of Sports at Univision. “The popular song featuring music star Guaynaa and the legendary Los Ángeles Azules will set the tone during this action-packed season.”

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WWE is again partnering with Cameo for a promotional push ahead of the company’s Hell in a Cell PPV. The platform will feature 13 Superstars, including Alexa Bliss, Rey Mysterio, Seth Rollins and Bianca Belair, who will record a limited number of cameo requests through June 20, the day of the PPV.

Mastercard and Ambev will reportedly not activate around Copa America despite their sponsorships of the event, following the decision to move the national team soccer tournament to Brazil, according to ESPN. This year’s rescheduled Copa America was due to take place in Argentina and Colombia, but Conmebol announced last week that it would be relocating the event to Brazil, despite the country having the highest Covid-19 death toll outside of the United States.


The New York Post writes that Sinclair is poised to launch its own direct to consumer sports platform, with executives telling potential investors that “it aims to charge $23 a month to fans who want to stream games in markets where it owns sports broadcasting rights.” The company is targeting a launch before the 2022 baseball season. Sinclair currently boasts 46 teams (16 MLB, 17 NBA, and 13 NHL) on 21 networks across its RSNs.

BetMGM is partnering with the Washington Nationals in a deal that makes BetMGM the only mobile sports betting app available at Nationals Park. “Launching in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park sets the stage for our plans to expand BetMGM within the region, as we’ve already seen great success in Virginia”, said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of BetMGM.


Nerd Street cut a deal with Razer to serve as the peripheral partner for Nerd Street’s VALORANT Summer Championships and all of the monthly qualifiers leading up to the event. “VALORANT is shaping up to be one of the most popular titles in esports.” said Khang Thai, Senior Global Esports Lead at Razer. “We at Razer believe that esports is for everyone in the community and are extremely happy to work with Nerd Street Gamers on providing a platform for players to come together to compete.”

Esports Fashion Group named H4X as a founding member, and that the company’s “Cyber Athletics” collection will debut as part of the pilot Esports Fashion Week, set to launch in Q3 2021. H4X will also hold 2 founding seats on the Esports Fashion Council.

The League of Legends European Championship announced that apparel brand EMP signed on as a National Partner of the German LEC broadcast. EMP is an officially licensed seller of League of Legends merchandise, and the activation will see EMP appear throughout the German LEC broadcasts. “Our company differentiates itself through our exclusive merchandise products, including licensed League of Legends merch, and our close relationship with fans,” adds EMP’s Chief Digital Officer, Sascha Müller. “That’s why collaboration with an exclusive, professional and community-adjacent league such as the LEC is an important further strategic step for our gaming engagement.”

Esports tournament organizer BLAST Premier and Bondly, an NFT solutions provider, teamed up to launch a collection of NFTs featuring original artwork of chickens synonymous with Counter-Strike. BLAST’s first NFT chicken-themed collection goes on sale on Tuesday. BLAST has created two teams (Team Red and Team Blue) of three chicken characters each with their own distinct personality. Through Bondly’s gamification process, the chicken NFT owner has the ability to upgrade it by blending multiple NFTs using BondSwap.


The United States Hockey League named Bill Robertson as its 10th President and Commissioner. Robertson joins the USHL after seven seasons as the President and Men’s League Commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. “I’ve known and worked with Bill for 20 years and am confident in saying the USHL is in great hands with Bill taking over the roles of President and Commissioner,” said Garrity. “We had a lot of fantastic candidates for the position but feel Bill’s experience in the sport will help continue to grow the league’s pedigree as one of the best junior hockey leagues in the world. I have great respect for Bill as a person and leader and there is no one better to lead the USHL.”


Check out the importance of single-market media buying in our 12-page report co-produced with our partners from New York Interconnect.



On this Day
1985: Earl Weaver comes out of retirement to manage the Baltimore Orioles.

What number did the Orioles retire to honor Earl Weaver? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
June 11 also saw the debut of the 1914 movie The Knockout, in which Fatty Arbuckle faced off against what movie legend? Answer: Charlie Chaplin. Kudos: Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Louis Lewow-FITE/Atlanta; Roger Furman-Sports Marketing Communications/Greentown; Kathi Gillin-Comcast/Philadelphia; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Dave Sikula-San Francisco State University/San Francisco

Cynopsis Team

Chris Pursell
Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Roberta Caploe

Cynopsis Ad Sales
Albert Nassour
Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
John Cox

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