March 13, 2020
In William Shakespeare’s epic work Julius Caesar, the oft repeated phrase “Beware the Ides of March” was uttered by the soothsayer to warn the Roman emperor of deadly danger that lay ahead on March 15.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis deepens across the globe, for the American sports world, the Ides of March came three days early on Thursday, March 12, 2020. That date brought a virtual halt to collegiate and professional sports as well as the first major coronavirus impacts to be felt by the outdoors world.
By day’s end, the college and professional sports calendar had all but evaporated as NCAA tournament basketball, the College World Series for baseball and softball, and all other spring collegiate sports were cancelled. The professional sports scene was drastically altered too with cancellations and/or postponements for the NBA, the NHL, MLS, MLB, and the PGA Tour.
That same evening, the outdoors world would be affected greatly too. That came when the National Rifle Association made a stunning announcement that it was cancelling its annual meetings scheduled for next month in Nashville.
“With our 149th Annual Meeting scheduled for next month in Nashville, we realize many NRA members and meeting guests have questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impact on our convention,” the organization said in a statement on its website.
“We have been closely monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health. In fact, earlier today, a state of emergency was declared in Tennessee.
“Therefore, we have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s NRA Annual Meeting, planned for April 16-19 in Nashville. This applies to all events and scheduled programs, including the NRA-ILA Forum. We sincerely regret the need for this action, particularly for our many loyal members who join us for this annual celebration of the NRA and our constitutional freedoms. Details regarding a rescheduled NRA Members’ Meeting will be forthcoming.
“Under the direction of NRA President Carolyn Meadows, the NRA Board of Directors is working with the Office of the Secretary in relation to board elections, meetings, and the like.
“Please know that we did not reach this decision lightly. We were ultimately guided by our responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community.
“Please coordinate directly with airlines or others who have assisted with your travel arrangements. Most companies have announced plans to accommodate travelers dealing with event cancellations.
“Thank you for your understanding and continued support.”
The move was a major blow to the organization in a contentious election year in which the debate on 2nd amendment rights is expected to once again play a major role. And it’s also a major blow to the Music City in light of the economic impact that the NRA meetings and exhibits can deliver to a host city.
How large is that impact? It’s big — and then some. According to a variety of news reports, the Louisville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau reported that the 2016 NRA meetings in northern Kentucky drew in 80,000+ people and had an economic impact estimated at $53 million.
As a late spring launching pad for some new shooting and hunting products, the NRA meetings cancellation could potentially leave some companies scrambling a bit in a year where supply chain shipments of components and goods may be impacted by the growing crisis. While it’s too early to tell if supplies of fall hunting gear will be impacted in 2020, that certainly seems to be possible.
In announcing the cancellation of the 149th NRA Annual Meetings, the organization indicated that the convention and exhibits would not be rescheduled, and that attention will now turn to the 150th Annual Meetings next year. That gathering is scheduled for the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston for May 14-16, 2021.
The cancellation of the NRA Meetings wasn’t the only impact felt by the outdoors world. In fact, the first known hunting season closure due to all of this took place on Thursday as well when the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska announced by Facebook post that it was shutting down its spring turkey hunts.
“2020 SPRING TURKEY SEASON CANCELLED,” the FB post read. “Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic both of our Spring Turkey Seasons have been cancelled for the safety of our traveling hunters and the Winnebago Community. We will begin issuing refunds and apologize for any inconvenience. Respectfully, John Snowball, Vice-Chairman, Wildlife & Parks Director, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.”
Obviously, more changes are likely to be forthcoming in the outdoors world from things like product supply and delivery capabilities, scheduled industry events and perhaps even more hunting campaign dates being affected as fall seasons grows less distant.
Stay tuned to Petersen’s Hunting as we work to keep readers updated on the latest news concerning coronavirus impacts to the hunting world as this fluid situation continues to unfold.