1st American professional sport to welcome fans, possibly Bull Riding – CBS Detroit
One of the first professional sports to allow spectators to attend as states gradually lift restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus is known for its savage and dangerous action: bull riding.
Professional Bull Riders have announced a new competition that will culminate in South Dakota July 10-12 with live crowds. As people can’t wait to get back to their day-to-day activities, it’s part of efforts by professional sports organizations around the world to give bored fans at least a taste of what once was.
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Organizers of the bull riding event said they would provide face coverings for fans, space seats 4 to 6 feet apart, and control the flow of people entering and exiting the arena to accommodate of social distancing.
The German Football Bundesliga returned this weekend with live football, but without supporters in the stands. Matches were played with sanitized balls, celebrated with punches rather than hugs, and cheered by masked substitutes rather than thousands of screaming fans.
U.S. professional sports organizations – eager to hear the roar of fans accompanying a finish photo or a 20-foot putt – are investigating how they can return to live events without exposing spectators to the virus.
The PGA Tour plans to bring golf tournaments back in June, but organizers have said they will not allow crowds for at least a month. NASCAR fans, banned from the circuit, gathered outside Darlington Raceway in South Carolina this weekend just to hear the engines roar.
As one of the first events planned to allow spectators, the bull competition will be a test – and a step towards a return to normalcy.
The sound of the fans will be subdued. The horseback riding competition will take place at the 12,000-seat Sanford Denny Premier Center in Sioux Falls, but tickets will only be offered for 35% of the seats.
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This will not meet President Donald Trump’s criteria for normality. He said on Sunday that his idea of a return to normal would be to have thousands of maskless fans “practically standing on top of each other” at golf tournaments.
But sporting event organizers are watching governors and local officials to comply with their slow lifting of restrictions on daily life.
Professional Bull Riders said they worked with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and local officials to organize the event. Noem has avoided shutting down businesses or issuing sweeping stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, and she welcomed the announcement, saying on Twitter that it shows the state “is working to get back to normal.”
Last month, the governor lobbied a pair of clay racetracks to cancel plans to allow hundreds of spectators to watch the races.
Ian Fury, spokesperson for the governor, said hosting the bull-riding event was largely a question of timing. The governor expects the spread of infections to be down by then, he said.
The Bull Riders “really go above and beyond” in hosting the event to mitigate the possibility of infections, Fury said.
The Professional Bull Riders televised event will pit teams of riders against each other on Fridays and Saturdays for nearly a month in Las Vegas, but without spectators. For the final weekend, they will travel to South Dakota for an event that organizers say will draw several thousand people.
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