Donkey Basketball
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Donkey Basketball: The Cruel Reality of a Historic Fundraiser

Basketball has many different variations. There's the traditional five on five, three on three, knockout, 21 — you add a wrinkle to the game, there's probably some version of it.

There is one form of basketball that some audiences aren't too fond of. No, it's not the New York Knicks. It's donkey basketball.

What is Donkey Basketball?

Donkey basketball is humans playing a game of basketball while riding donkeys. No one knows exactly how the obscure sport came to be, other than it's been played in the United States since the 1930s. A donkey basketball game is usually played in a high school or middle school gym. There isn't any dribbling but most traditional rules are followed within reason. Donkey ball is usually played as a fundraising event. Companies that specialize in donkey entertainment or local farms provide the animals and split the proceeds with the contractor.

Donkey Basketball Controversy and PETA

Donkey basketball is surrounded amidst protest. The biggest argument against the sport is donkeys are steered by inexperienced riders who don't know how to handle the animals with care. Placing these animals in a foreign place with loud noises can also cause confusion and panic.

The entertainment value is supposed to come from the randomness of the donkeys. The unfamiliar environment and surface cause sporadic actions and resistance to their riders' directions. It's chaotic and can even get dangerous. Multiple people have suffered injuries that have resulted in lawsuits. A Waterloo, Illinois man received $110,000 due to injuries in a 1997 game. A fifth-grade teacher from Florida settled a lawsuit in 2003 against the Diocese of St. Petersburg after falling off a donkey in a game.

Animal rights activists haven't taken kindly to the game. People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) provide support to combat donkey basketball. They supply steps on how to protest such as starting a petition against the event. They also offer help on planning a demonstration along with contacting local media outlets and using social media.

Despite all the backlash, donkey basketball perseveres. Companies such as Dairyland Donkey Ball and Buckeye Donkey Ball are some of the biggest donkey entertainment providers out there and strongly argue in favor of the sport.

Donkey basketball will continue to be problematic as long as it's played. As the game approaches its 100-year mark, the ongoing battle between donkey ball enthusiasts and animal rights activists isn't losing any steam.

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