I didn't see the notices taped on the front of the entrance doors to the Charlotte Convention Center when I arrived early Saturday morning to man our booth at the Easyriders Bike Show this past January.
Sylvia was in Atlanta working a different show, and I was working Charlotte.
It wasn't until late that afternoon when I saw them. I made a mental note to investigate the reason for their posting before the show ended.
However, working the booth by myself, I never had that opportunity and, as far as I could tell, the dress code (no colors) had not caused a decline in attendance.
I did think it was ironic that you could get in with a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt but nothing else that appeared to be “club related.”
The following week it became apparent there was more to the story than what I’d assumed.
I reached out to a source inside Easyrider and was told, “This is not a matter that needs any input from the general public or rights groups. If someone is not involved in this it would be best to MYOB.” (mind your own business.) Easyriders Events are neutral ground, we do our best to serve the lifestyle, cultures and subcultures of the motorcycle world. Easyriders Events does not get involved with club business, our only concern is for cohesive coexistence between the general public and the subcultures during our events.”
A few days before the big Columbus Show, Easyrider Events issued a public statement that said in part, “Easyriders Attorneys have been able to provide us with the approval to ALLOW COLORS for all clubs except ONE. The Club that is not allowed knows who they are and will not be admitted into any Easyriders Events.........ever. “
For the record, Easyrider Events has been an advertiser in this magazine. I’m friends with the promoter and several of the writers for the magazine. This is a small industry and everyone knows just about everyone.
But, that’s not why I’m taking Easyrider’s side on this one.
The reason is their 40 years of unwavering support for the biker lifestyle.
The motorcycle landscape has changed in the four decades since Easyriders first hit the newsstands in the 70’s. Some of the progressive changes can be credited to its founder Joe Teresi and the magazine’s staff in the early days who gave the “tattooed, long haired bikers” a magazine they could call their own. A magazine that celebrated the rebellious freedom of the two wheel lifestyle.
All that, and a fair amount of incidental nudity. But that’s what goes on in this lifestyle among consenting adults. They didn’t create it, they just reported it.
More importantly, Easyrider Magazine was one of the few, if not the only newsstand motorcycle magazine who aggressively supported motorcycle rights, and helped galvanize MRO’s into formidable opponents of overzealous McCarthyish state and Federal lawmakers.
Joe Teresi himself testified in Congress against laws that would have made it illegal to modify motorcycles.
Teresi and others worked to establish and support fledgling A.B.A.T.E. chapters across the country, often paying their expenses with profits from the magazine, out of pocket, or with donations from advertisers.
Easyriders customers are the hard-core “biker” lifestyle readers and riders. The guys and gals who attend ABATE meetings and have been discriminated against time and time again, in one form or another.
So there’s no doubt in my mind that posting a “no colors” sign was a decision that was made to protect the general public first, and the organization and brand second.
Probably the most outrageous (and stupid) accusation leveled against Easyrider Events is their decision was “profit motivated.”
Think about it for a minute. Easyrider Events took a public relations black eye to protect the moms, dads and kids who attend their events. They knew a small but vocal group intended to stir up trouble and disrupt attendance, (and possibly become violent) but they made the tough call, and I respect them for that.
I’m glad I wasn't the one who had to make that decision.
Until next month, ride safe, and always take the road less traveled.