HARRISBURG, Pa. - The country's largest sports and outdoor show won't go on as planned. Organizers postponed the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show on Thursday.
The decision comes a little more than a week after Reed Exhibitions announced it would not allow the sale or display of modern sporting rifles at the show. Those types of rifles include the AR-15 which has been linked to the mass shootings in Newtown, Ct . and Aurora, Co.
The announcement created a huge backlash from vendors, celebrities and people who attend the event every year. Within days, major vendors like Comcast and the NRA backed out.
One of the show's sponsors, Cabela's , announced on its Facebook page that it would not take part in the show. The outdoor retailer said, " After careful consideration regarding Cabela’s business practices, and the feelings of our customers, Cabela’s will, unfortunately, not have a presence at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show." In all, more than 300 vendors pulled out of the event.
Others upset by the ban created a "Boycott The Eastern Sports And Outdoor Show" page on Facebook and gained more than 19,000 fans. People posted on the page in support of the proposed boycott, thanked the vendors who backed out and called for others to keep doing business with those vendors.
Finally, on Thursday, Reed Exhibitions posted a brief statement on the show's website saying it had decided to postpone the event indefinitely "given the controversy surrounding its decision to limit the sale or display of modern sporting rifles."
Now the spin begins. Backers of the boycott hailed the postponement as a victory for Second Amendment Rights. Others sided with Reed, saying the organizer stood its ground and didn't give at a time when many state and federal lawmakers are looking at ways to curb gun violence.
What is clear is the financial impact the decision will have in the Harrisburg area. Early estimates put the loss at $43 million. That's money that won't be spent on hotel rooms or at restaurants.
And then there's the ripple effect. Many of the 1,200 vendors at the Eastern Sports and Show book hunting, fishing and camping trips. Now those small businesses will have a hard time filling bookings, which trickles down to hotels, restaurants and stores in the cities and states where they are located.
People on the "Boycott" Facebook page are now calling on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett to go ahead with the show without the organizer. Corbett, a gun rights advocate, hasn't said whether he would support that option.
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