The Missouri rodeo audience was mostly white and the masked man in the ring was depicting a black man. This changes everything we think about humor, about clowns and about good old-fashioned fun.
Just as N-jokes are no longer funny to almost anyone, placing a black man in the arena like an unarmed gladiator isn’t amusing. As much as we aspire to racial harmony, we have centuries of history to overcome, including the mob-inspired lynching of black men, and this is what so many saw in the clown skit. Memory conquers humor.
It nearly goes without saying that the difference between a gladiator and a rodeo clown is that everyone knows (or at least can rest 99 percent assured) that the rodeo clown, no matter what mask he's wearing, is a trained professional and will live in the end.
The point being a gladiator was to end up eaten by a lion to the amusement of a roaring crowd.