Major League Baseball said on Friday it would move its All-Star Game from Atlanta this year to protest Georgia’s restrictive new voting law – the first major move by a sports body in the midst of an enlargement. business backlash to republican legislation.
Just a day after the start of his 2021 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the annual game would be moved to a location yet to be determined due to newly signed legislation in Georgia.
The league “fundamentally supports the right to vote for all Americans and opposes restrictions on the ballot box,” Manfred said, adding that “fair access to the vote continues to enjoy the unwavering support of our game.”
This is the latest high-profile rejection of new legislation signed by Republican Gov. of Georgia Brian Kemp last month that restricts early voting and postal voting provisions, whose critics say they disproportionately target black voters. It is part of more than 300 bills introduced by state legislatures in the United States this year, which include restrictions on access to the vote, according to the Brennan Center, a non-partisan institute of law and policy.
Kemp said on Friday that the MLB “has given in to fear, political expediency and liberal lies” and called the decision to move the All-Star Game “to attack our state.”
Georgian Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, called the MLB decision an “unfortunate consequence” of what he described as an effort by a few politicians to hold on to power at the expense of Georgian voters.
“I hope that businesses, athletes and artists can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting head-on against the repression of voters, and hand in hand with the community,” he said. he declared.
The Atlanta Braves, the MLB franchise whose facility reportedly hosted this year’s game, said in a statement on Twitter that this decision “was neither our decision nor our recommendation” and that “unfortunately companies, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision”.
On Wednesday, dozens of senior black leaders from across the United States signed a public letter urging American businesses to oppose Georgian legislation, writing that “the new law and others like it are both undemocratic and anti-American, and they are wrong ”.
Since the publication of this letter, the chief executives at Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, two of Atlanta’s largest companies, along with dozens of others, including Uber, Salesforce, and PayPal, have publicly denounced the legislation.
The MLB decision underscores the rise in civic engagement of sports organizations, especially over the past year as the United States has faced racial injustice. Following the protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, the The commissioner of the National Football League apologized so as not to engage with players who had previously protested against police brutality, such as Colin Kaepernick.
Several leagues, including the NFL, MLB and the National Basketball Association, have incorporated the Black Lives Matter brand into their stadiums and player equipment to varying degrees in recent months.
The relocation of the MLB all-star game is likely to have a big impact on the Georgian economy. The annual game, a midsummer clash between top players from each of the league’s two divisions, regularly results in an additional $ 60 million or more in host city coffers, according to Baseball Almanac.
This is not the first time that professional sport has dislodged a high profile game from political considerations. In 2016, the NBA decided to move its own All-Star Game out of Charlotte, NC, in opposition to a bill in this state which limited protections against discrimination for the LGBTQ community.
A partial repeal of this bill, known colloquially as the “toilet bill”, paved the way for a compromise between the league and local authorities, and the game returned to Charlotte in 2019.
This year’s MLB All-Star Game was to take on special significance in Atlanta after the death of the civil rights icon and Atlanta Braves star. Hank aaron, although Manfred has said commemorative events in his honor stay on schedule regardless of where the match is being played.
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York and Lauren Fedor in Washington