Pro Bull Riding tour first sport to return since COVID-19 shutdown; expected to stop in Nashville

Posted at 2:46 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 22:16:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When it comes to phasing things back to normal from the coronavirus, live sporting events rank dead last on the list. But, this past weekend, one professional sport in the U.S. did get back to business - and we're not talking about the NFL draft.

The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour held an actual event and may have set the template for all other major sports now to follow.

It's unclear when sports will return, and once they do there's still the question of if or when fans will be allowed in the stands.

Even still, Professional Bull Riders are still scheduled to compete in Nashville this summer. In fact, the PBR tour is already underway and is the first such professional sport to do so in this country.

"PBR takes the coronavirus very seriously. It's nothing to mess around with," said CEO Sean Gleason.

He staged an event this past weekend in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Top bull riders from around the world competed in front of empty stands, but for a television audience.

Gleason says precautions were taken. Riders must first go through a security checkpoint where they are medically screened by CDC guidelines and their temperatures are taken.

The riders were provided custom masks along with protective gloves and safety glasses. And, all the equipment is sanitized after each use.

"You can't be too safe. This where guys touch stuff ... the place where things happen," said Gleason.

The question is: Can these steps translate to other sports? The Titans, the Predators or the Sounds?

PBR says all the other leagues have already contacted them with questions. But unlike bull riding, these sports involve athletes in much closer proximity to one another.

Of course, any game can be played without a crowd. That is lost revenue. PBR is able to get by with sponsors and TV revenue. Other sports may depend far more on ticket sales and concessions.

But, bull riding has now shown professional competition can make safely make a come back. The NBA has already announced teams may be able to reopen their facilities to players in early May. However, all athletes must still abide by social distancing guidelines.

As for the return of youth sports, for now, most leagues in Tennessee have postponed any possible play until mid to late summer... if then.