Friday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced their decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game and Draft out of Atlanta to a yet-to-be-determined location. The decision stems from the passage of Senate Bill 202 in the Georgia Legislature on March 25th. Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement:
“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. 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.
“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities. In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”
Senate Bill 202 replaces the signature match statute with voter ID requirements, shortens the absentee ballot request period starting 11-weeks before the elections and ending 11 days before, tightens requirements for county elections supervisors, such as requiring them to have absentee ballots counted by 5 p.m. the day after elections, bans the use of mobile voting buses for early voting except in emergencies.
Also, drop boxes can be capped at one per 100,000 active voters in the county or one for every early voting location. Counties must choose between the smaller of the two. Drop boxes will only be accessible during early voting. Additionally, passing out food and drink to waiting voters is also criminalized and partisan poll watchers will have to undergo training. Lastly, the Georgia Secretary of State would no longer chair the State Election Board, and would instead be appointed by legislators.
On March 26th, MLB Players Association president Tony Clark said he “would look forward” to discussing the option of moving the MLB All-Star Game from Truist Park in the wake of Senate Bill 202’s passage.
“Players are very much aware,” Clark told The Boston Globe in an interview. “As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation.”
President Joe Biden disapproved of Senate Bill 202, calling it “Jim Crow on steroids” during an ESPN interview.
“Look at what’s happened across the board. The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it’s just not right,” Biden said in the interview. “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”
After Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill, he and the Georgia Republican caucus have faced blistering criticism. Thursday, Kemp responded to Biden’s comments in an interview with Fox News, calling the move “ridiculous.”
The Atlanta Braves released the following statement:
The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its’ 2021 All-Star Game.
“This was neither our decision nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. 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.
“Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision. We will continue to support the community legacy projects which have been planned and are in process.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement elections have consequences.
“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected. Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”
Governor Kemp issued the following statement after MLB’s decision:
“Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies. Georgians – and all Americans – should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.
“This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections. I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections. Earlier today, I spoke with the leadership of the Atlanta Braves who informed me they do not support the MLB’s decision.”
Meanwhile, the Players Alliance, a collective of more than 100 current and former players representing Black communities, came out in support of MLB’s decision with a statement that read in part: “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.”
In a statement, former President Donald J. Trump blasted the move and urged his supporters to “boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections.”
Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams, former Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate and current voting rights advocate tweeted her disappointment, while praising MLB’s willingness to lead from the front.
“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star game; however, I commend the players, owners, and League commissioner for speaking out,” Abrams wrote. “I urge others in positions of the leadership to do so as well.”