In opposition to Georgia’s new voting laws, Major League Baseball announced Friday that Atlanta will be stripped of hosting the league’s 2021 All Star Game this summer. It’s arguably the boldest decision from MLB since integrating its sport in 1947 with Jackie Robinson.
Despite the MLB considered to be one of the more conservative sports leagues alongside the NFL, even more conservative than NASCAR, the league decided to take a stand.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement announcing the decision. “In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.’’
In the past week, Georgia state legislature signed the “Election Integrity Act,” which includes a slew of voter registration laws, such as ID requirements on absentee ballots, eliminating early voting beyond one week, limiting access to voting drop boxes/polling sites, and banning the distribution of food and water to those waiting in line to vote.
President Joe Biden called the bill “Jim Crow on steroids,” calling on Wednesday for the MLB to pull the All Star Game from Atlanta. CEOs of Coca-Cola and Delta, both headquartered in Atlanta, have even issued statements condemning the new bill.
“I will not back down,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said in a thread of tweets. “Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections.”
Kemp has spent the majority of his political career limiting access to the voting box, and was even under fire when facing Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, who founded several coalitions designed to register new voters in the state.
Kemp’s attitude won’t win him any supporters. Major sporting events, corporate events, and conventions won’t be flocking to Georgia any time soon.
The MLB hasn’t announced a new location for the 2021 All Star Game, but the league might want to consider one that isn’t on pace for a similar law. The Washington Post reported that lawmakers in 43 states have proposed at least 250 laws that include voting restraints.
The NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl out of Arizona when voters refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a state holiday. Similarly, the NBA moved the 2017 All Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina when state legislation discriminated against the transgender community. In both cases, the moves by the two leagues led to change in state laws.
Major League Baseball knows its decision is controversial. This year, the league plans on celebrating Hank Aaron’s life — who passed away earlier this year to natural causes. Aaron held the home run record from when he hit his 714th dinger to break it — previously held by Babe Ruth — to when Barry Bonds hit his 756th at AT&T Park in San Francisco (now Oracle Park). Some would argue that Aaron still holds the “real” home run record.
Either way, if Major League Baseball wants to honor Hank Aaron, they’ll stand in solidarity with the millions who oppose the ridiculous laws passed by Georgia last week. It’s the boldest move by the league in several decades. Of all teams, I’d think the Braves would’ve supported Aaron the most.