Major League Baseball is making its position known when it comes to voting rights. The league recently decided to pull its annual summer All-Star game out of Atlanta as a rebuff to new election rules in Georgia that would make it harder to vote in the state’s urban areas. The 2021 MLB draft will also be moved from the state.
The announcement comes after several civil rights groups voiced concerns that new voting laws in Georgia would restrict voting access for people of color. According to ESPN, the bill that was signed into law last week by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control about how elections are run. According to the New York Times, the bill adds new identification requirements for absentee voting, restricts the use of drop boxes and also prohibits people from handing out food or drinks to voters waiting in line at polling stations.
The bill in Georgia is the first major voting restrictions law to be passed since the 2020 election, and it marks the beginning of several states’ pushes to pass new voting restriction-based laws. Texas and Florida both have recently introduced bills that will severely restrict voting access and accessibility.
Several other major stakeholders, like the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Players Alliance, lobbied to pull the All-Star game out of Atlanta after the new voting restrictions were passed. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, in a statement issued by the MLB, said the decision to move the game was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. Fair access to voting continues to have our unwavering support.”MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
The decision by the MLB marks one of the first times that the league has made a political statement as significant as pulling a game out of a certain location. The league has been known to be more slow-moving and traditional, as many of the league’s owners are conservative donors. Regardless, this year, the league has done more in terms of politically based messages; in addition to the relocation of the All-Star game, the MLB also suspended contributions to political candidates from its Political Action Committee following the breach at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6.
Many people have come out in support of the league’s decision. Sports stars such as Magic Johnson, Lebron James and Derek Jeter as well as several MLB team managers and athletes have expressed their appreciation to the MLB for taking a strong stance on voting rights. Democratic former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and former president Barack Obama have also stated their support for the league’s decision.
The decision is not without controversy. The league has owners from across the political spectrum, and the move could alienate some conservative owners and fans alike and lead to major backlash. The Atlanta Braves criticized the MLB’s decision and said in a statement that they were “deeply disappointed” about the game’s outcome. Former President Donald Trump also issued a statement urging people to “boycott baseball.”
The All-Star game will now be played at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado – home of the Colorado Rockies. The league chose the Rockies because the team was already in the bidding process to host a future All-Star game. The MLB also gets the added benefit of moving the game to a state that maintains one of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation.
The 2021 All-Star game is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13, 2021. This will be the second time the All-Star game has been played in Denver, with the first being the 1998 Midsummer Classic.