Drinking the Kool-Aid: How do you solve a problem like Rasmussen?

On May 20, a concerned PBR fan (not me) wrote the following to a PBR representative:

I am reaching out to you because I believe that you are a fair, level headed person. I have been gone since last Sunday. I was watching the event on May 2nd. People are rioting in Baltimore, Missouri and other places for racial issues. PBR is trying, I believe, to be a global sport. I was appalled when Flint commented on Ruben Barbosa and called him whiplash the cowboy monkey. Howard Cosell (long before your time) was fired for commenting and calling a black player a monkey.

Flint, in my opinion, crosses the line nightly. I am offended when he says things about the riders and calls them “girls”. Twerking? Looks like dry humping on the shark cage. They pick a kid dressed like Flint for the fan of the night, then he calls people degrading names?

Corporate PBR needs to take a step back and look how they are coming across to middle class America. They need to look how they come across to women who watch the sport. Do they want to sell sex (Monster girls half dressed, Flint tweaking etc.) or a sport that everyone can enjoy? I hope that you share this with others in PBR because I am not alone in my concerns.

Response from PBR rep:

I will try to address your concerns one at a time. I know that Flint’s comment about the comparison to Whiplash was not racially motivated at all. If you have ever seen his act, it would remind you of how Barbosa rode that bull. Flint would have said the same thing about any of the riders that rode that way. The Whiplash act is pretty funny.

Also, all of the riders all get along great with Flint and everyone knows that he does and says a lot of crazy stuff in the arena. As far as a lot of the other stuff, I don’t find some of his stuff funny, but I don’t think there is anyone that will find everything funny. In the Western World, he is undoubtedly the best and most popular entertainer there is. As you can guess, he is under pressure all of the time to keep the show going, but there will always be people that don’t like certain aspects of every show. He is under pressure to try to fill in every spare minute and that is a lot to ask. I don’t know of too many people that would be able to do what he does.

As you can also probably guess, he hears it from all sides and it is a tough line to walk. Everything from, He is not cutting edge enough to too cutting edge. He does not reach out to the younger fans enough to he does not reach out to the older fans enough. He doesn’t do enough to court the newer fans to he doesn’t do enough to keep the longtime fans happy.

It goes on and on, but everyone has to realize that it is a very tough job and there will be many people, including everyone at PBR, that will be sad and scared when he decides to retire. If you watch other bull riding or rodeo events, there aren’t many people that hold a candle to the entertainment he provides to such a large audience every single week. Most of the other acts I’ve seen, and I’ve see a lot, are pretty bad and I have seen many jokes that seriously cross and are embarrassing. Lastly, I do want to state that I’m not a fan of some of the stuff that he says and does sometimes, but I do like more stuff than I don’t, and that is good enough for me.

Fan:

Thank you for taking the time to address my concerns. I respect your views. You are probably the same age as my boys..,early 30s? I agree that I have seen much worse entertainment. Flint is a good entertainer. But if you are trying to reach a global market, he may have to dial it down. PBR is no longer a “local” good ole boy sport. PBR has chosen to take it to a higher level. They can’t afford offending a large group of fans (women, not girls, women) by their entertainer’s act. I know he has daughters (2) and a wife. This is his work, not personal.

Your last statement about “that is good enough for me” could be very gender-based. My husband of 42 years, after all of these years, sees gender issues very differently. What seems like something that’s not a big deal to a man may offend a woman. I am just a concerned fan of many years.

PBR rep:

I just know, that no matter what, he will not please everyone. I wish that he could. As you can probably guess, he has legions of fans. If you go to one of his autograph signings, it is primarily women and children. When I get requests to meet him, it is almost exclusively women who do so. I know that he does not appeal to everyone, but there are a lot of women that like him more than the riders.

Again, I don’t necessarily like everything he says or does, but I don’t think there is anyway that I could. He is an entertainer, and he tries to do and say entertaining things. I think that coming from someone else, many of the things he does could be taken the wrong way. I definitely can’t envision too many other people twerking, but he can get away with it because of the entertainment aspect and because people know why he is doing it. I would only ask, what would people think if we didn’t have an entertainer? The show wouldn’t be what it was without him.

Fan:

More thoughts. PBR should know who their target market is. It is very expensive to go to an event. I went for one day in Des Moines. Tickets cost me over $200. Many of your fans can’t afford this. Please keep our concerns (fans who can pay the big bucks) in mind. If I continue to be offended (as others my age and economic bracket may be) we could chose to spend our money someplace else. I just renewed my membership and got PBR US Bank credit card. I am not a casual fan.

Please take my concerns (and I speak for others) into consideration. Please pass our concerns on to the higher ups. I am not anti-Flint. But I continue to believe that his remarks are very anti-Brazilians, anti-“girls”….very “good ole boy” mentality…locker room stuff that we are trying to get away from in K-12 schools.

PBR Rep:

Oh, they know. We have weekly meetings, and I lead the portion about Fan Concerns. Everyone has to realize that there are many stakeholders and also many concerns. I try to pass on everything that I hear.

Fan:

Please pass my concerns on about calling a Brazilian a monkey. This really is what it was all about. Flint and the announcers are laughing about it. High school students in Des Moines are committing suicide over bullying and name-calling. What Flint says may be funny to some but could send another person over the edge. Words hurt.

PBR rep:

Well, Flint is closer to most of the Brazilians than many. He hangs out with them a lot. I do know that most of his fan letters and requests come from women and children, so again it’s trying to strike the balance and trying to keep a lot of people happy.

Fan:

I am just asking for some sensitivity. That is all. It is all about perception. You should know, being in the media.

PBR rep:

As we are starting to explore possible people to replace Flint, for when he retires, I would like to ask you and others, who would you suggest as a replacement?

Many have suggested Dave ‘Showtime’ Meyer. If you have seen his shows, we will definitely need to tone him down a lot.

Fan:

What about a male and a female? Not a female half-dressed bimbo. Retired barrel racer?
I do not know Dave Meyer. It needs to be someone professional if PBR wants to be a “professional” sport.

PBR rep:

The problem with Flint and trying to alter him too much, is that even though some do not like him, his overall popularity is off the charts.

Then, the problem with trying to find a replacement, and we have been, is that in the Western World, there just aren’t many polished entertainers that can carry a show for as long as he does.

Fan:

Does PBR want to be WWE or NFL? That is the question that needs to be addressed. WWE…Flint-like will be fine. NFL or NBA… different look. What do the new owners want? Like I said, I am not anti-Flint. Maybe the problem is that I listen/watch on the computer each week and hear the same stuff every week. Maybe if you only heard him once a year he is not offensive. We live in an era of the here-and-now. If you hear him every week, his act becomes offensive.
I hope you are not taking any of my thoughts personally.

PBR rep:

Not at all. I enjoy hearing all opinions. It is the only way we are going to get better.

Fan:

Thank you for listening to my concerns. I hope you will share them with your team.

PBR rep:

We don’t want to be like the WWE and we will never be like the NFL, as our sport is just too different. If anything, we look to what UFC has done.

Fan:

I will continue to address my concerns to you as I get raked over the coals by the drink-the Kool-Aid group.

PBR rep:

Of course we also worked very closely with everyone at ‘The American’ as we all are trying to change and evolve western sports.

The new rodeo association, the ERA, has stated publicly that they are modeling their business model after PBR.

Know that I take all concerns to our weekly meetings.

BullRidingMarketing’s response to Fan:

You expressed your thoughts very clearly, and they were heartfelt. You are 100% right on each issue. Flint’s act often denigrates women and girls, includes sexual innuendos and racist “jokes,” and even occasional smarmy pedophilic comments. People who say “but a lot of women aren’t offended” are taking about UNCONSCIOUS women who don’t want to see the reality of how women are perceived and treated. They can’t look at it because it would topple every belief they have, and they’d have to see the truth: women are often treated as a sub-human species– even by men they love.

People who defend sexist or racist or pedophilic comments always fall back on the excuses, “It was only a joke,” “He didn’t mean it,” and “He doesn’t hate women–he has a wife and daughters.” A sexist or racist comment is NEVER a joke, or accidental, or funny. The fact that a person makes such a comment and thinks it’s funny means s/he DID mean it, and IS racist or sexist, because if s/he weren’t, s/he wouldn’t make the comment! If some people don’t perceive the sexism or racism, that doesn’t mean it’s not there!

Having a wife or daughters means nothing in terms of sexism. Plenty of violently abusive men have female partners. Plenty of pedophiles have children of their own. Flint doesn’t beat his wife, but he obviously thinks nothing of including sexist slurs in his act; he’s clearly made a choice to include that material. That shows a disregard for any female in the audience, whether she understands that or not.

It doesn’t matter how much time Flint has to fill, there’s no reason to resort to, as you put it, “dry humping,” degrading females, or sexualizing children by inappropriate “jokes,” such as telling a little girl that when she grows up, she shouldn’t go over to the end of the arena where the cowboys are, or telling a high school girl that now that she’s 18, he can dance closer with her, or asking a little boy if he has a girlfriend, and “Is she hot?” What is a child going to learn from watching Flint twerking ? What is s/he going to think? Newsflash: a person can dance without imitating sex acts, and make jokes without being sexist, racist, or pedophilic.

“Crazy stuff” doesn’t have to be racist, sexist stuff. That cliché of “not everybody will think everything is funny” is another way to say that PBR doesn’t care who it offends; it’s like when men say feminists who object to sexism “have no sense of humor.” As for which fans Flint “reaches out to,” for years only boys were chosen for Fan of the Night or Best Dressed Fan. Women were ignored, except for the occasional Barbie doll, chosen so people could ogle her on TV. Older people were ignored except if they were willing to make fools of themselves dancing badly. That situation has only slightly improved, but the females Flint prefers to interact with are usually a batch of semi-drunk “girls.”

If PBR can’t find someone who can fill the time appropriately, they aren’t looking in the right places. They need to hold professional auditions, view professional videos, and contact the performer unions. That’s how you find professional entertainers. Flint is not the only person in America who can entertain a crowd, and it would serve PBR and its customers better to make an effort to find someone who can be funny without being insulting. “Cutting edge” does not mean sexist and racist. Those diseases are the opposite of “cutting edge;” they’re relics of the past and should stay there.

Any child watching these events is getting the message that males participate in the action and control all the communication, and females get to stand around with half their bodies exposed while they applaud the men; and that men can insult and make fun of women and girls and be applauded for it, while the women and girls should laugh and smile.

The old chestnut of, “We can’t please everybody, we have to balance out everyone’s needs” always amounts to, Women’s needs aren’t important. PBR really doesn’t want to acknowledge that it should make an effort to change its behavior (since financial reasons are PBR’s only motivation) in light of the fact that half its customers and audience members are women, and women control a lot of purse strings. God forbid they should make any changes out of plain human decency! PBR has made no attempt to alleviate the sexism we see on TV and at events. Their ideas of a nod to women include a perfume with an insulting tag line, and website “blogs” or “stories” by “Wives of the PBR,” which they sometimes title “Women of the PBR,” when it’s still the wives talking—most of whom have drunk gallons of the Kool-Aid— with only the occasional stock contractor.

As for the fact that Flint gets along great with the riders, SO WHAT? They’re male coworkers, end of story. So what if the ERA (ironic acronym!) models its business on PBR? That’s just about money. It’s not about good customer relations, or ethics, or humane behavior. And if UFC is the model PBR is shooting for, they could hardly aim any lower.

As for changing and evolving Western sports, the front line of action needs to be eliminating the sexism and racism! THAT’S how you broaden your audience. It’s such a DUH– but then, PBR has never been “cutting edge” when it comes to people. Their treatment of Brazilian riders has revealed every ugly aspect of their “good ole boy” mentality. They’ve got a long way to go before they arrive in even the 20th century, let alone the 21st.

On 5/14 PBR rep replied to the Fan again:

I will try to cover the top issues you mentioned, but please let me know if there is other information you need, as we cover a large number of subjects each week:

  • Whiplash – There was no racial connotation intended, but everyone realizes that there is a large part of the audience that probably have never seen or know about Whiplash, so it was definitely something that is not understood by the larger audience.
  • Brazilians – As I stated Flint is closer to many of them than many people at PBR. This is part of the reason, he can give them a hard time on certain subjects, as he is so close to them and they like being able to interact with him, as it helps to promote their relationship with the fans.
  • He states that he tries to be an equal opportunity offender and tries to throw a dig out to everyone that he can no matter who they are or where they come from.
  • Women – It goes a little bit back to the last statement. He is definitely not biased against women and tries to dole out jokes to everyone no matter what race, sex, size, look, or anything else.
  • He is definitely not going to start becoming completely PC or his act would grow very stale quickly.
  • He has to be able to improvise during each show.
  • Also, the complaints are monitored and if we receive too many complaints about anything, whether it is Flint or anything else about PBR, then they are addressed.

Currently, the complaints voiced about Flint are very few and the ones that we do hear are differing in subject matter. Flint’s popularity continues to grow, as a whole, but he recognizes that he needs to appeal to all ages, demographics, and sexes, so he continues to try to cater his show to everyone while not crossing any lines. This is something that he works on every week. He knows that he is not perfect and that some of his acts and jokes will not always appeal to everyone, but he tries to do different things to appeal to the differing audience.

I hope that I have helped. Know that we continually evaluate everything and adjustments will continue to be made as we hear from fans.

5-15-15

BullRidingMarketing’s reaction to PBR rep’s statement, “I will try to cover the top issues you mentioned, but please let me know if there is other information you need, as we cover a large number of subjects each week.”

Information??

Right there is the exact problem with PBR: condescension. Nobody asked for information. This fan understands the issues perfectly well, and is giving PBR information, not the other way around! This person wants acknowledgment, serious consideration, and action.

The PBR executive (not the rep’s) approach is always: “Let me explain to you why you’re wrong, and why we won’t do anything about the issues.” They don’t want a real conversation. They just want to present their “storyline.” Their style is one-way communication, which fans have complained about for years. They are a stone wall. As for the “large number of subjects each week,” I guess the treatment of human beings and what style of rope a rider uses are equally important; just get this first issue out of the way quickly, and get to the next one, which of course is of colossal importance.

About Whiplash the Cowboy:

Clearly PBR still doesn’t see that explaining Whiplash the Cowboy (a rodeo act, in which a monkey dressed like a cowboy is on the back of a dog) doesn’t justify Flint’s comment. It doesn’t matter if some people think the act is funny. Even if Flint didn’t deliberately set out to insult a Brazilian rider, his lack of consciousness about using the monkey analogy is appalling.

The usual excuse people use after they’ve insulted someone is that they didn’t do it deliberately. The fact is, if they made the offensive comment, they have the offensive attitude. There’s no way of describing an American rider in equally insulting terms. I saw J.B. Mauney hanging sideways, upside down, and every other way off Code Blue, and Flint didn’t come up with that analogy. So far, I’ve never heard Flint make insulting comments about American riders. And just exactly how does being offensive about Brazilian riders help to promote their relationship with the fans?

“Equal opportunity offender”

Since when is good comedy based on insulting half or more of your audience? (Jerry Seinfeld has a brilliant career, not based on insulting groups of people.) If Flint really considers himself an “equal opportunity offender,” he should also be taking shots at American cowboys, Jeff Robinson, the WME/IMG execs, Cowboy Church, Jeb Bush… You can bet Flint will NEVER make fun of religious people or the armed forces. That “equal opportunity offender” business is bullshit.

The statement is full of contradictions: “equal opportunity offender” means someone who has no regard for anyone, even children, yet we’re supposed to believe Flint is trying to appeal to everyone! That’s another classic PBR “Gaslight” technique: tell us the opposite of what’s real, and try to make us believe it. If Flint wants to appeal to women, stop the sexist comments. If he wants to appeal to people of other nationalities, ethnicities, or races, stop the biased comments. Does he make offensive comments about the stock contractors? No. The sponsors? No. The money people? No. Once I saw him make a joke about one of the Spire Capital people, and it wasn’t an insulting one.

PBR makes money through venture capitalists, riders, sponsors, stock contractors, and PEOPLE, half of whom are women who buy merchandise, memberships, tickets, and Pay Per View events. Of all these revenue-producing streams, the only group Flint makes insulting comments about is women. Obviously we and our dollars don’t matter as much as our male relatives, friends, and spouses and their money. There’s no way PBR can rationalize that fact—we see it in action at every one of Flint’s performances.

As for the “he’s not biased against women” nonsense: the bias is clear, because Flint’s most frequent target is women. Who else can you insult with sexist remarks? Only a few intelligent men in the audience will take offense on behalf of women, because there are a lot of unconscious men. And since when is insulting other races, overweight people, elderly people, etc. a joke?

“PC”

And what exactly do “good ole boys” mean by “PC”?? I’d love to hear one of them define it! They can’t, because it’s a meaningless phrase invented by prejudiced reactionaries. They use it as a dirty word. They think respecting people is a gag order that politicians invented. What do they mean, “politically correct”? Since when is it a “political” issue to treat everyone decently? It’s a HUMAN issue.

And yes, it’s “correct” to treat everyone respectfully. Prejudiced people think speaking humanely is a restriction imposed on them by a government. They use “PC” as a catch-all excuse for sexism, racism, ageism, and every other prejudiced behavior. They think it’s their “right” to insult or harm people who don’t fit their own profile.

In case these so-called Christians (which most of the PBR organization considers themselves) have decided there are only 9 Commandments, does this other one ring a bell? “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Making sexist and racist comments is putting across lies about women and other targets: that they’re inferior and deserve insults.

Does Flint’s behavior in any way align with the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12)? It seems very convenient that when it comes to women, PBR has made an exception to the Golden Rule. And let me state here that I’m not a Christian, but I sure as hell know how I should treat others!

Newsflash, boys: sexist and racist comments are not free speech, they are “hate speech.” The First Amendment doesn’t cover hate speech, because hate speech encourages and often leads to violent actions. Hate speech helped terrorize and lynch black Americans, murder millions of Jews, and inflame white South Africans into murdering black South Africans. I’m using extreme examples so PBR can get the point.

Improv

Flint has to improvise—SO?? A talented performer should be able to improvise without making women or Brazilians the butt of “jokes” that aren’t funny. These aren’t jokes, they’re sexist and xenophobic remarks. (Xenophobia means “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”) If he can’t riff on what’s happening in the moment without being insulting to women and Brazilians (or making disgusting remarks to children), then he’s not as good as PBR thinks he is.

Do they think Flint’s popularity will wane if he stops making sexist, racist, ageist, and pedophilic comments? Then they don’t have confidence in his talent. They’re saying, We don’t care how we treat anyone except “good ole boys.” I can’t understand how anyone with a brain doesn’t see this.

Monitoring and addressing complaints?

PBR “monitors” and “addresses” complaints by censoring them. Ask anyone who’s tried to post a negative comment on their website. Don’t tell us that if they receive “too many” complaints, they address them! What do they consider “too many”? It must be a very high bar when it comes to complaints from women. Some examples of how PBR addresses complaints:

  • I once received a call from a prominent PBR flak who harangued me for complaining on my blog about how PBR does certain things. It was an angry, insulting tirade, not a conversation. I actually felt threatened about what he might do next.
  • Women have complained for years about sexism during events and broadcasts. PBR’s response: ignore them. Period.
  • People have complained for years about vindictive judging and selective application of rules. PBR’s response: a complicated new points system designed specifically to prevent Silvano Alves from winning another world title. They couched this desperately low move in language such as, “the new point system rewards bull riders who perform at the highest level both within individual events and throughout the season” and“This new point system does a significantly better job of rewarding those riders who consistently perform at the highest level and strive to win on every bull.” So I guess Silvano doesn’t “perform at the highest level” or “strive to win on every bull”? The fact is that he does, but the judges make it look as if he doesn’t, with lowball scores, constant harassment, and DQs.
  • People have complained for years about audiovisual problems with PBR Live, fewer Fan Club perks, and rising ticket prices. PBR’s response: periodic attempts to fix PBR Live, then offering the equally screwed-up Carbon TV as an alternative. They ignored comments on perks and ticket prices.

More contradictions:

First of all, what are some of the complaints? I’d love to hear what the “differing subject matter” is. Does anyone complain about Flint not being sexist and racist enough? If Flint needs to appeal to all ages without crossing any lines, he needs to learn where they are! He does cross them—for example, in remarks he’s made to children.

The issue is not that his material “will not always appeal to everyone.” The issue is SEXISM AND RACISM. Why should sexism and racism appeal to anyone? If he’s trying to appeal to an audience that enjoys sexism and racism, then PBR needs a company shrink—or why don’t they just arrange special seating that segregates women and Brazilians from the rest of the audience, and have the other men wear white hoods and Playboy Bunny logos? Half of the “differing audience” is female. Why can’t Flint appeal to the female half by eliminating sexist material??

Unhelpful response

There’s nothing helpful in that response, other than showing how someone can be forced to parrot the company line, and how entrenched sexism and racism are in the PBR organization. It’s just plain insulting to pretend to listen to fans, then do absolutely nothing but explain why PBR and Flint are right. Polite pacification doesn’t count as action.

Yet, in spite of all this interaction, nothing has changed so far, and the rep who had the courtesy to reply to the Fan is no longer with PBR. That’s just how they roll

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About Bull Riding Marketing

Creative services, marketing and public relations professional from entertainment industry background. Published in magazines and newspapers worldwide. I believe bull riders are the new rock stars.
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4 Responses to Drinking the Kool-Aid: How do you solve a problem like Rasmussen?

  1. pazle says:

    would you care if the Whiplash was said about JB? Seems like you always take the non American side.

    Like

    • I don’t know what you mean about Whiplash. Whiplash is an injury, most often to the neck, suffered during an accident.

      If I saw judges discriminating against ANY rider I’d take his side, even if I didn’t like him. No judge has a right to let personal opinion interfere with his professional judgment. If he does, he’s not much of a professional. If judges were shafting other riders in favor of Brazilian riders, I’d have a lot to say about that, too!
      Your second sentence sounds as if you think bull riding is about Brazilians vs. Americans. Any rider I’ve ever heard, regardless of where he’s from, says he’s competing against the bull, and that competition from other riders makes him try even harder. Unfortunately, some American fans think bull riding is about the U.S. versus Brazil. It’s an international sport; there are no “sides.” There was only ONE event that pitted the U.S. against Brazil, and that was the World Cup years ago, where riders were on teams representing their countries.

      Like

  2. Tired of being fan says:

    Great article. Only can hope that the PBR will read it. They need to!

    Like

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