Sports

MLB moving All-Star Game in response to Georgia voting restrictions

(CNN) — Major League Baseball announced Friday that this season’s All-Star Game and draft will not be held in Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recently passed laws that placed new restrictions on voting.

The new host city for the July 13 game has yet to be announced, according to the league.

“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,” MLB Commissioner Rob 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.”

Georgia recently passed new voting laws, leading critics to call for boycotts of companies based in the state and for sports leagues to consider moving big events. Chief executives and other high-ranking leaders from more than 100 companies, including Target, Snapchat and Uber, issued a public statement Friday opposing any measures that deny eligible voters the right to cast ballots.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said in the statement.

The new law in Georgia introduces new impediments to voting, reducing the number of drop boxes in heavily African American areas and allows the state to intervene to assert control over the conduct of elections in Democratic counties. It shortens the time available for absentee votes and introduces new registration requirements that campaigners say are designed to target Black voters.

“Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said. “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.”

Earlier Friday, Kemp, a Republican, tweeted: “Facts are stubborn things. Despite the outrage from the left, we are making it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia.”

Voting rights campaigner and former Georgia House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams said on Twitter that she was disappointed MLB chose to move the game but proud of the league’s stance on voting rights.

In an additional statement she posted to Twitter, Abrams said the Republican state legislators who passed the bill did so knowing the economic risks to Georgia.

“They prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians,” she wrote in the statement.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wrote that the actions of elected leaders have consequences.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” she tweeted.

League will still honor Aaron

The game was to be played at Truist Park in Atlanta, one of the cities where Hank Aaron, who died in January, earned accolades as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. MLB said Aaron will still be honored at the All-Star Game this summer.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday he would “strongly support” moving the game and its festivities from Atlanta.

The Atlanta Braves said the franchise is “deeply disappointed” by the decision to move the game.

“This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will be able to see this event in our city,” according to a statement from the team. “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.”

The 2022 All-Star Game is scheduled to be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that the league should call him because “in California, we actually work to expand voter access — not prevent it.”

The Players Alliance, a group of more than 150 current and former Black professional baseball players, supported the move.

“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 group said in a statement posted on Instagram.

Precedent for the league’s action

MLB is not the first major sports league to move an All-Star Game.

In 2016, the NBA announced it would move its All-Star Game from North Carolina due to the state’s controversial transgender bathroom law.

“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in 2016, referring to the state law that requires transgender people who are in government buildings to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex with which they were born.

The game was played in February 2017 in New Orleans. The law was later repealed, and Charlotte hosted the All-Star Game in 2019.

NBA superstar LeBron James, who officially became part owner of the Boston Red Sox this week, tweeted in support of MLB’s decision.

“Proud to call myself a part of the @mlb family today. @Morethanavote #BlackLivesMatter,” James tweeted.

LeBron James’ voting initiative, More Than a Vote, also tweeted about MLB’s decision.

Referring to the NBA game in February, the group said, “Over #NBAAllStar in Atlanta, we called on lawmakers to drop their voter suppression bill. They didn’t. Now, @MLB has decided to move their All-Star Game from Atlanta. All the states still considering voter suppression bills should take note: Actions have consequences.”

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