Major League Baseball sent a warning shot to Republicans on Friday, considering new restrictions on voting laws after its summer All-Star game was pulled from suburban Atlanta to Georgia in a revolt New election ban This will make voting in urban areas of the state difficult.
Decided by Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred Lobbying day From civil rights groups and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The action is likely to put additional pressure on other major organizations and corporations to consider pulling Georgia businesses, a move that both Republicans and Democrats in the state oppose, despite disagreeing about the new voting law.
The baseball decision comes as other states are moving closer to passing new laws that would restrict voting. In Texas, home to two professional baseball teams, the State Senate Passed a law this week That would limit early voting hours, restrict drive-through voting, add restrictions on absentee voting, and mail non-voting voters for local election officials to vote illegally, even if they Be eligible. In Florida, also home to two major league teams, the state Legislature has introduced a bill that would severely limit the drop box.
Legislation in Georgia, signed last week by Brian Kemp, a Republican, was first passed in a battleground that hosted new sanctions for voting since the 2020 election. It added new identification requirements for absentee voting, limited the use of drop boxes, gave more authority over elections To legislature And it made it a misconception for some groups to offer food or water to voters waiting in line.
Mr. Manfred said in a statement that after interacting with teams, players, former stars and players’ union officials, he had concluded that “the best way to showcase our values as a sport is this year’s All-Star The game and the MLB draft have to move. “
Baseball said it is finalizing details about this year’s All-Star Game and new locations for the draft. The league faced the uncertain prospect of celebrating an All-Star Week dedicated to it Former atlanta braves great henry aaronAgainst the backdrop of the Georgia elections, a black baseball pioneer who broke Beth Ruth’s home run record was widely seen as targeting black voters.
Mr. Kemp, who has been defending the law on several television shows this week, criticized the decision to move the All-Star Game and tried to blame the state Democrats for their outspoken criticism of the voting restrictions.
“Major League Baseball pointed to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies,” Mr. Kemp said in a statement, excluding Mr. Biden and Stacy Abrams, the head of state Democrats. He said: “I will not back down. The Guardian will not be threatened. We will stand for safe, accessible, fair elections. “
Georgia Democrats did not call for a boycott of the game, but were pressuring Major League Baseball and Georgia’s other corporations to oppose the state’s new voting law.
Ms. Abrams, who ran for governor in 2018 against Mr. Kemp and could challenge her again next year, said she was “disappointed” baseball pulled her All-Star Game, but said “Proud of his stand on the right to vote”
For now, the fallout from baseball’s decision is more political and civil than financial. The impact on Georgia’s economy of losing the All-Star Game is minimal, said Andrew Ziembeliste, a sports economist at Smith College, because most tickets will be sold locally and many specific festivities will be canceled due to coronavirus. Ubiquitous epidemic.
But, Mr. Zimbalist said, Major League Baseball is taking a significant risk by taking a step that could alienate conservatives in its fan base. Everyone watched professional basketball and football Last year, the league boycotted the Conservatives after embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There will be a response,” Professor Zimbalist said. “I highly doubt that progressive people who didn’t like baseball would start liking baseball, but its very likely that conservative people who like baseball will get away with it.”
While the National Basketball Association and the NCAA, which regulate college sports, have often been at the forefront of advancing progressive politics – the NBA pulled off its own All-Star Game out of Charlotte and the NCAA led North Carolina Republicans Later pulled the championship out of state. Enforced a “bathroom ban” on transgender people – baseball rarely made a political statement as important as taking their midsummer classic out of Georgia.
Associated Press in 2017 North Carolina is estimated to have lost $ 3.7 billion over 12 years. It did not repeal its law. Once North Carolina lawmakers repealed it, the NBA honored Charlotte 2019 basketball all-star game.
The NCAA has declined to comment about the new Georgia voting law. The Southeastern Conference, which has 14 schools from South Carolina to Texas and plays its annual football championship game in Atlanta, has not addressed it.
Prior to baseball’s announcement, top Georgia Democrats had publicly opposed boycotting their state over Republican voting legislation, instead urging companies to fight against it and passing Congress HR 1, a federal voting rights bill Asked to do what could override parts of Georgia law.
Senator John Osoff, who was elected a Democrat in the January election, said companies should be upset about the law “preventing any financial support to the Republican Party of Georgia.”
Senator Rafael Warnock of Georgia, who faces re-election in 2022, blamed the state’s Republicans. “It is not the people of Georgia or the activists of Georgia who have framed this law, it is the demand of politicians to retain power at the cost of the voice of the Georgian,” he said. “Today’s decision by MLB is an unfortunate result of the actions of these politicians.”
Several Democratic members of the state Legislature have been in a similar manner against boycott in Georgia. Outside Atlanta, Democratic Senator Jane Jordan wrote, “Stop with this boycott nonsense” On twitter last week. “Not me but people and companies should use their economic power in this state for change, not here at all.”
At least one Georgia Democrat, state Rep. Terry Anulwick, whose Cobb County district includes the Braves’ stadium, expressed disappointment that it would no longer host the game.
Georgia Republicans have scoffed at the prospect of a boycott. After Coca-Cola objected to the law, David Ralston, State House Speaker, Told reporters that he drinks a pepsi, An act of heretics in coke-dominated Atlanta.
Mr. Biden said in a television interview with ESPN on the opening day of MLB on Thursday that he would “strongly support” moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. He called Georgia’s law and similar restrictive voting bills that Republicans “Jim Crow on steroids” in almost every state.
In an interview earlier this week The Associated Press, Mr. Manfred, baseball commissioner, had indicated that he was insisting on advancing the game, but declined to make any firm commitments.
Mr. Manfred said at the time, “I am speaking to various constituencies within the game and I am not going beyond whether I will consider it or not.”
The Braves franchise, which left Atlanta in 2017 for a new publicly funded stadium in suburban Cobb County, Said in a statement It is “deeply disappointed” in the league’s decision to move the game.
The players’ union executive director, Tony Clarke, has said the union was willing to discuss pulling the game to be held on 13 July.
Players Alliance, A non-profit was formed after the assassination of George Floyd Which now includes more than 150 former and current Black professional baseball players, issued a statement in support of Major League Baseball’s decision.
“We want to make our voice loud and clear in our opposition to recent Georgia law that not only dissuades the black community, but other states with equally damaging laws based on widespread lies and disinformation Paves the way for passing, “the group Wrote a statement on twitter.
“We won’t shut up,” the group said. “We will not back down in the fight for ethnic equality. We will never stop obstructing the ballot box. “
James wagner, Kevin draper, Alan Blinder and Joe Drape Contributed to reporting.