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No Winners: 2007 PRCA v. WPRA Legal Battle

The PRCA lost a lawsuit to the WPRA in 2007 when the PRCA tried to form its own barrel racing association.

Since 1948, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has sanctioned barrel racing and worked closely with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association at ProRodeos across the country. In September 2006, though, all of that changed—if only for a little over a year—thanks to the creation of the PRCA’s own Professional Women’s Barrel Racing (PWBR). The PRCA’s formation of its own barrel racing association would result in a loss in court to the WPRA and would ultimately cost the association $2.6 million in settlement money to the oldest women’s professional sports association in the country.

Brittany Pozzi Pharr

In early 2005, PRCA Commissioner Troy Ellerman began making every effort to cut costs for the association, reducing the staff and the number of telecasts, selling a variety of the PRCA’s TV licensing rights and reworking the relationship with the Canadian ProRodeo Association.
Ellerman also saw potential cost savings in the PRCA’s relationship with the WPRA. After attempting to increase WPRA members’ dues and that association’s resistance, the PRCA and many top barrel racers at the time, decided to form its own barrel racing association, the PWBR. In doing so, they used confidential member records the WPRA had provided the PRCA over the years for the purposes of entry and record keeping. The WPRA sued the PRCA.

Incidentally, at this point in the process, Commissioner Ellerman resigned due to a guilty plea he entered in the BALCO steroid investigation claim (SWR April, Sept., 2007). He served 16 months of his 30-month prison sentence for his role in the Major League Baseball steroid scandal.

But the usage of those membership records was deemed illegal and would cost the PRCA dearly. The court ordered the PRCA to pay the WPRA $6.875 million. In January 2008, the WPRA settled for $2.6 million, and things went back to the way they’ve always been—though it took until 2009 until many of the details and hard feelings were worked out.
Brittany Pozzi remains the only barrel racer ever to win a PWBR world title at the 2007 WNFR. The WPRA’s world champion that year was Kay Blandford.

“The board of directors thought working things out with the PRCA was the only wise thing to do for the sport itself—we couldn’t just walk away from them,” said former WPRA President Kathi Myers. “We didn’t want to be out of the world of rodeo. It’s proved beneficial to the sport of rodeo. It was a smart move at the time for the WPRA and the sport of rodeo as a whole.”