Americans who want to celebrate their First Amendment rights and thumb their noses at political correctness have a few upcoming opportunities to don an Obama mask while fleeing from bulls.
One company offering Pamplona-style "Running of the Bulls" events in the U.S. says the masks, which prompted nationwide condemnation for one Missouri rodeo clow, are allowed at its events.
"We have no problem with that," Phil Immordino, an organizer for Running With the Bulls USA, told U.S. News.
Immordino helped coordinate a 1998 event in Mesquite, Nev., that featured runners wearing masks of former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Associated Press reported.
"I wouldn't say political masks are common," Immordino told U.S. News. "What is common are costumes."
Running With the Bulls USA is currently promoting an Oct. 25-27 event in Phoenix, Ariz., and an April 11-13 run in Las Vegas.
Another organization, The Great Bull Run, which Immordino calls "the new kids on the block," doesn't allow masks or anything else that may block runners' vision, its spokesman, Rob Dickens, told U.S. News.
The Great Bull Run has events three 2013 events scheduled. Its Aug. 24 debut in Richmond, Va., has 5,000 registrants so far. Other bull runs are scheduled Oct. 19 in Atlanta, Ga., and Dec. 7 in Houston, Texas. Seven events are scheduled for 2014.
Although bull-running is a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S., political impersonations are somewhat of a tradition at bull-bucking rodeos, according to news reports.
At southern New Jersey's Cowtown Rodeo, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1994, a dummy meant to look like President George H.W. Bush dummy was gored – "sending the rubber mask flying halfway across the sand" – in front of a cheering crowd.
A Saturday performance featuring an Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair, however, angered and embarrassed Perry and Lily Beam, locals who brought a Taiwanese student along with them. Perry Beam wrote a Facebook post describing the performance, which was reposted to the blog Show Me Progress. The story exploded into the national newscycle during a slow August.
Videos of the performance went viral. "We're gonna smoke Obama, man," the announcer says before a bull is unleashed on a masked rodeo clown. "Obama, they're coming for you this time. ... Soon as this bull comes out, Obama, don't you move he's gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha, you big goober." The clown whirled around and was not "smoked" by the bull.
Amid feverish news coverage, Republican and Democratic officials in Missouri condemned the performance and on Monday the Missouri State Fair Commission apologized for "the unconscionable stunt" and banned the rodeo clown wearing the mask, who was not named, for life.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest weighed in to the rodeo skit Wednesday, saying "[i]t was certainly not one of the finer moments in our state," CBS News reported. The state NAACP chapter's president, Mary Ratliff, issued a statement calling on the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the performance for "targeting and inciting violence against our President," KOZL-TV reported.