(Reuters) - A Professional Bull Riders (PBR) competition took place in an empty arena in the U.S. on Sunday with cowboys in facemasks clinging onto 1,500-pound (680.39 kg) bucking bulls while most professional sports remained on coronavirus lockdown.
Members of the safety crew wrangled errant bulls while wearing masks in Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Lazy E Arena, as riders swapped their protective headgear for face coverings after completing rides in the two-day PBR Las Vegas Invitational.
Stands were bare due to social distancing guidelines for what would otherwise have been a rowdy affair featuring American and Brazilian competitors and leading bulls such as ‘Fearless’, ‘Two Socks’ and ‘Skeeter Peter’ after a 41-day hiatus.
The event, which kicked off on Saturday, comes amid widespread questions over when and how major North American professional sports leagues could re-start, as lockdown measures remain in place for millions across the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s leading infectious disease adviser said earlier this month that sports could potentially resume in empty stadiums. nL5N2C35RI]
Appearing like a bandit from the old Wild West in his face mask and cowboy hat, PBR CEO Sean Gleason strode around the dirt ring on his Palamino horse, overseeing an event that would have scarcely seemed possible a month ago when sport was put on hold.
“Some might ask, ‘Why buck bulls during a pandemic?’,” Gleason tweeted on Saturday. “For us, we believe every American has an obligation to help get our economy back on track - not by rushing ahead blindly - but in safe and responsible ways.”
Gleason said earlier this month, after consulting with state and local officials, that the event, broadcast on CBS Sports, would feature “a comprehensive safety and wellness plan”.
Every person involved in the event was housed on the Lazy E grounds, Gleason added, in “an environment that minimizes the risk of anyone catching or spreading the coronavirus.”
The U.S. has recorded 939,991 novel coronavirus cases with 53,822 deaths according to a Reuters tally.
Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris