MLB strikes Atlanta All-Star Sport over Georgia Electoral Legislation in 2021

Major League Baseball announced Friday that it was rescheduling the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to a new law in Georgia making civil rights groups concerned about its potential to restrict electoral access for people of color.

The MLB draft for 2021, a new addition to the All-Star Game celebrations this year, is also being postponed.

In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league will “complete a new host city and details of these events will be announced shortly.” A source told ESPN that the 2022 All-Star game is still slated for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and that that location won’t move up this summer to fill the void.

“Over the past week we have had thoughtful discussions with clubs, past and current players, the Players Association and the Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said in his statement. “I’ve decided that the best way to demonstrate our values โ€‹โ€‹as a sport is to move this year’s All-Star Game and this year’s MLB draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes ballot box restrictions. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to build a future in which everyone can shape the United States We are proud to have used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities in our country to fulfill their civic duties and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to be steadfastly supported by our game. “

The Atlanta Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” with the result.

“This was neither our decision nor our recommendation and we are sad that fans cannot see this event in our city,” the team said in a statement. “The Braves organization will continue to emphasize the importance of equal choice, and we were hoping our city could use this event as a platform to improve the discussion. Our city has always been known as a unit in separate times and we will have the opportunity miss.” Address issues that are important to our community.

“Unfortunately, companies, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

The Players Alliance, made up of more than 100 current and past players who have come together to empower black communities, backed MLB’s decision with a statement that read, in part, “We want our voices to be heard loud and clear. ” in our opposition to the recent Georgian legislation, which not only disproportionately disenfranchises the black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws, largely based on widespread lies and disinformation. “

We support @ MLB’s decision to postpone the All-Star Game in 2021. pic.twitter.com/ESTh4g4bVj

– ThePlayersAlliance (@Player_Alliance) April 2, 2021

The White House said President Joe Biden also supported the decision.

“The president has expressed concern about the law passed in Georgia because it contains extreme provisions that affect the ability of so many citizens to cast their votes,” the White House said. “He said earlier this week that if Major League Baseball’s decision to postpone the All-Star game was made, he would certainly support that decision – and now that MLB has made that decision, he certainly does . “

In a statement, former President Donald Trump blew up the act and urged his supporters to “boycott baseball and all bright companies that interfere in free and fair elections”. Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, praised the decision as a tribute to the legend of Braves great Hank Aaron.

Congratulations to @MLB for campaigning for the right to vote for all citizens. There is no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always leads by example.

– Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 3, 2021

Georgia governor Brian Kemp last week signed extensive Republican-sponsored law that includes new restrictions on postal voting and better legislative control over the conduct of elections. The bill, which also bans volunteers from distributing food and water to voters waiting in line, was finalized on March 25, about 15 miles from Truist Park Braves Stadium.

The new SB202 electoral law came after Georgia’s first Democratic victories in presidential and Senate elections in a generation, which sparked repeated unsubstantiated claims by Trump that the state’s elections were fraudulent. Proponents of the new law have stated that it merely ensures electoral integrity and eradicates potential fraud, while critics have described it as a voter suppression tactic that would make it difficult for minorities, especially people of color, to vote, and indicate how it decreases electoral access in urban communities that are democratic.

A recent New York Times review of the 98-page bill identified 16 provisions that either undermine Georgians’ right to vote or take power away from state and local electoral officials and give them to lawmakers.

The governor said in a statement that MLB “gave in to fear” by moving the All-Star game.

“I will not back down. Georgians are not bullied,” said Kemp. “We will continue to advocate for safe, accessible and fair elections. I spoke to the Atlanta Braves leadership today and they have told me they do not support the MLB’s decision.”

Stacey Abrams, a Democratic former gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist from Georgia, tweeted about her disappointment but understanding of MLB’s decision.

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that MLB is relocating the All-Star game, but I recommend the players, owners and the league commissioner to speak out,” Abrams wrote. “I urge others in leadership positions to do the same.”

Atlanta Democratic Mayoress Keisha Lance Bottoms said she supported MLB’s decision. Atlanta will undoubtedly be part of the economic loss, although the Braves’ home ground is now out of town in the suburb of Cobb County.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers to restricting access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.

Dave Roberts, manager of Los Angeles Dodgers, who is set to lead the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game out of Georgia.

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

Tony Clark, executive director of MLBPA, said last Friday that he would โ€œlook forwardโ€ to discussions about moving the Midsummer Classic – scheduled for July 13th – out of Atlanta. Five days later, Biden, who won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes, told SportsCenter that he would “strongly support” such a decision, calling the new bill “Jim Crow on Steroids”.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who holds a stake in the Boston Red Sox, was one of those who supported MLB’s decision on Twitter.

Proud to call myself part of the @mlb family today. @Morethanavote #BlackLivesMatter ๐Ÿ™๐ŸพโœŠ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘‘

– LeBron James (@KingJames) April 2, 2021

Despite the All-Star Game moving, Manfred said that “MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will continue,” and that Aaron, who passed away in January, will continue while of space would be celebrated – Star festivals.

Atlanta previously hosted the All-Star Game twice, in 1972 and 2000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.