Major League Baseball (MLB) announced on Friday that the 2021 All-Star Game will no longer be played in Atlanta after many civil rights organizations expressed concern about a new Georgia law, which may restrict voting access for people of color.
The 2021 MLB Draft will also be moved. Commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear that investments MLB planned in order to support local communities throughout Atlanta will continue, along with plans to celebrate the memory of baseball icon Hank Aaron.
“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said in a statement. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”
Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 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.”
The Players Alliance is made up of over 100 current and former MLB players who are dedicated to building a fairer system, and creating more diversity throughout baseball, by providing greater opportunities for Black communities. The group came out with their own statement on the commissioner’s decision.
“We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition of the recent Georgia legislation that not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws based largely on widespread falsehoods and disinformation.”
“While we support those in need in whichever city the game is ultimately relocated to, we will also uphold our commitment to those Georgians we’ve already planned to serve. We will use our voice, our platform, and our partnerships now more than ever to create real, tangible change for the Black community to stand up for every American’s right to vote.”
The Atlanta Braves responded they are “saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said. “The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as an uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp criticized the decision and stated that Georgia’s new law is aimed at preventing voter fraud, instead of restricting voting access for Black communities.
“Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists,” Gov. Kemp said at a news conference. “In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hard-working Georgians who were counting on the All-Star Game for a paycheck.”
After Democrats won the presidential and Senate elections, flipping the red state to blue for the first time in over 20 years, former President Donald Trump spread false claims about voter fraud. In response to the 2020 election, Republican legislatures across the country have unleashed sweeping voter reform bills. The G.O.P. has claimed that these laws will increase protection at the ballot box and make U.S. elections more safe and secure.
However, The Washington Post identified a handful of provisions in the 98-page bill (SB 202) that restrict access to the ballot box:
- shorter window for early and absentee voting
- limit on the number of ballot drop boxes during early voting
- voter ID requirement, which has been a controversial topic around the country in recent elections (voter ID laws have consistently shown a disproportionate effect on people of color)
- less time for early voting in runoff elections
- Georgia lawmakers can investigate elections by overruling the independent, non-partisan state elections board
- ban on handing out food and water within 150 feet of a polling place
The White House expressed support for this decision as President Biden told SportsCenter the bill was “Jim Crow on steroids.” Former President Barack Obama also applauded the decision on Twitter.
Dave Roberts, manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers who will manage in this summer’s all-star game, has also voiced his support for Rob Manfred’s decision. Roberts is half Black and half Asian, and he has consistently spoken out over the past year and a half against racial killings and the rapid rise in Asian hate crimes.
“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,” Roberts said.
The new location for this year’s mid-summer classic is Coors Field in Denver – home of the Colorado Rockies.