The National Rifle Association has called on the organizers to reverse the decision, and Cabela's, a major hunting and fishing retailer, has withdrawn its sponsorship, according to the Associated Press.
Cole, who identifies himself in his Twitter profile as "Professional football player, host of an Outdoor show called Blitz TV," posted several tweets Sunday, including "Urgent announcement: Trent Cole and Blitz TV will not attend the 2013 Eastern Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA." and "Unfortunately, we will not support the recent decisions made by Eastern Sports Show management."
Cole, like last year, was expected to sign autographs at a booth for his Blitz TV show, which airs on cable's Pursuit channel.
"It was real draw," Blitz TV spokesman Jim Clinton said this morning. He confirmed that Cole, who is away on a hunting trip, withdrew because of the rifle ban.
According to a news release from the show's promoter, Reed Exhibitions, "this year we have made the decision not to include certain products that in the current climate may attract negative attention that would distract from the strong focus on hunting and fishing at this family-oriented event and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests."
"Current climate" seems to refer to the public outcry and renewed calls for broader gun controls after the mass shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December.
The show's ban reportedly applies to military-style semi-automatic rifles, which have been characterized as "assault weapons."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation disputes that term, contending on its website that "AR-15-style rifles are NOT 'assault weapons' or 'assault rifles.' An assault rifle is fully automatic -- a machine gun. ... AR-15-style rifles look like military rifles, such as the M-16, but function like other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearms, firing only one round with each pull of the trigger."
Reed Exhibitions also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to Blitz TV's Twitter page, its show "hosted by NFL Pro Bowler Trent Cole and Richie Elam" airs three times a week on the Pursuit Channel.
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.