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Racist rodeo clown skit at Spartan Stampede draws complaint

February 21, 2020

A Rodeo clown drew criticism after performing a racist skit at the 50th annual Spartan Stampede Rodeo Feb. 14.

"My shock began as the rodeo clown’s skit started with a man walking out wearing a sombrero, serape, and carrying a fake gun," Alexa, whose last name was removed for affiliation with a nonprofit in attendance, stated in an email. "Obviously, there are Halloween costumes for this particular traditional Mexican dress, so although I felt it was insensitive, I brushed it aside."

Alexa, a student attending Grand Valley State University, sent an emailed complaint to the MSU Rodeo Club and the MSU Office for Inclusion following the performance.

She said the skit became worse as the rodeo clown began taunting the Mexican caricature, calling him "Taco" and asked why he didn't go "back to the border.”

"At this point, I was absolutely furious because I could not stand if Hispanic people were in that crowd being publicly ridiculed by the thousands attending," Alexa said. "We are all at the rodeo to have a good time, and not to face discrimination like many do on a daily basis."

She said while she loves the sport and thought the club did a good job putting the rodeo together, she left Friday's performance feeling disappointed and sad.

MSU Rodeo Club advisor Brian Nielsen responded shortly after.

"As someone who works hard to promote inclusiveness, I agree with what you are saying," Nielsen said via email. "When I became aware of the skit ... I brought the concerns to the clown and to our stock contractor that hired him.  I asked the clown to change his performance - and he obliged.  The stock contractor and I also made the decision to not bring him back next year and have already lined up a different clown to perform at next year’s rodeo."

MSU deputy spokesperson Daniel Olsen also responded to the incident.

"The department chair then also required the actor, who was a contractor for the show, to remove the language from all subsequent shows," Olsen said. "So, that would be the two shows on Saturday and then the show on Sunday. And I would just reiterate that these remarks made by this individual are not reflective of the values at Michigan State and so we have made the decision to not welcome back that actor next year."

Correction: This article was updated at 3:53 p.m. to change the beginning of Dan Olsen's quote from 'the department here' to 'the department chair'

This article was updated at 4:15 p.m. to change anonymity to 'whose last name was removed'

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