Major League Baseball pulls Georgia All-Star Game over voting rights

Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s summer star game on Friday due to the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia’s voting laws that critics – including the CEO of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola – have condemned as too restrictive.

The decision to withdraw the match on July 13 from Atlanta’s Truist Park amounts to the first economic backlash against Georgia for the voting right that the Republican government Brian Kemp quickly signed into law on March 25.

Kemp has insisted that the team’s critics have wrongly characterized what it does, but still GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false allegations of fraud in the 2020 election of former President Donald Trump and his supporters. The law contains new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are conducted.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to move the All-Star events and amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of black players formed after George Floyd’s death last year, the commissioner said in a statement. A new ballpark for the events was not immediately revealed.

Manfred said he also spoke with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which at the time of the commissioner’s decision said it had still not taken a position.

“I have decided that the best way to show our values ​​as a sport is to move this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft,” said Manfred. “Major League Baseball basically supports the suffrage of all Americans and opposes restrictions on the ballot box.”

Kemp called it a “knee-jerk decision” meaning “interrupt culture and awakened political activists come for all aspects of your life, including sports.” If the left does not agree with you, facts and truth do not matter. ”

“This attack on our state is a direct result of repeated lies by (President) Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that would increase access to the ballot box and ensure the integrity of our elections,” Kemp said in a statement referring to the Democratic candidate he barely defeated in the 2018 election. ”I will not retire. Georgians will not be bullied. ”

Georgia State House spokesman David Ralston, a powerful Republican who supported the changes to voting rights, said the baseball league’s decision “deprives Georgians of a special celebration of our national leisure without politics.”

Like other Republicans in the state, Ralston promised to stand behind the new law, which adds strict identification requirements for voting absent by mail, restricts the use of ballot boxes and makes it a crime to distribute food or water to queuing voters. , among many other provisions.

Georgia’s Republicans say changes were needed to maintain voter confidence in the electoral system. Democrats and suffrage groups say the law will disproportionately affect color communities. On Wednesday, two of Georgia’s most prominent business leaders stood on the team’s opponents.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian described the law as “unacceptable”, while Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the legislation a “step backwards”.

The Atlanta Braves issued a statement on Friday saying the team is disappointed with Manfred’s decision.

“We are sorry that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” said the team. “The Braves organization will continue to emphasize the importance of equal voting opportunities and we hoped that our city could use this event as a platform to improve the discussion.”

Los Angeles Dodgers boss Dave Roberts, who will coach the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game from Georgia.

“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard – and in this particular case people of color – for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” he said. Roberts, son of a black father and Japanese mother.

Abrams, who has been fighting for the right to vote since her loss to Kemp, blew up the new right to vote. The Democrat is being closely monitored to see if she is looking for a rematch against Kemp 2022.

“Georgia’s Republicans must refrain from the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the damage they have caused to our economy,” Abrams said.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said she supports MLB’s decision. Atlanta will no doubt share the financial loss, even though Braves’ home stadium is now outside the city, in a suburb of Cobb County.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely to be the first of many dominoes that fall until the unnecessary barriers imposed to restrict access to the ballot box have been removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.

Some Georgia County Democrats where the game was to be held said they opposed MLB’s moves. Lisa Cupid, the black chair of the Cobb County Commission, said she urged the league to stay rather than harm hotels and other businesses that are still plagued by the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary of State Teri Anulewicz, a Democrat whose district includes the stadium, added: “I do not know who Major League Baseball feels they are punishing. From his statement, the governor has made it clear that he does not feel he is being punished. ”

The relocation of high-profile sporting events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the United States

The NFL originally awarded the Super Bowl in 1993 to the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day to an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.

The NBA first planned its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then moved it in July 2016 due to its objections to a North Carolina law that limited protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017 and the All-Star Game 2019 was held in Charlotte.

In 2001, NCAA officials decided to ban the allocation of championship seats in advance to states that displayed the Confederate flag but did not change events whose seats were determined by sowing or ranking. It was expanded in June last year to prevent NCAA championship events from being played where the flag had a prominent presence. The Mississippi governor signed a law less than two weeks later to retire.

Manfred said despite the venue changing, MLB still plans to use the All-Star Game this year to honor Hank Aaron, Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home champion who died on January 22 at the age of 86.

Houston Astros boss Dusty Baker, a former teammate of Aaron’s, applauded the move, saying the late player “always had the rights of the people at his heart.”

“This is what Hank would have wanted, even if it was his city,” Baker told reporters.