Georgia last week strengthened ID requirements for absentee ballots, shortened early voting periods for runoffs and made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.
Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Robert Manfred said the league was relocating its 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft from Atlanta, following an outcry over Georgia’s new voting restrictions.
“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,” Manfred said in a written statement.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
Georgia last week strengthened identification requirements for absentee ballots, shortened early voting periods for runoffs and made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.
The law, which was endorsed by the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, faces legal challenges as civil rights groups say it aims to suppress voting among Black people and other racial minorities.
Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democratic President Joe Biden has been sharply critical of the law and on Wednesday said he would support moving the July All-Star Game out of the state as a form of protest, telling ESPN: “This is Jim Crow on steroids what they’re doing in Georgia.”
Commissioner Manfred said MLB made the decision after consulting with individual clubs as well as current and former players, adding the league was finalising plans for a new host city.
“Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” said Manfred, a day after the league kicked off its 2021 regular season.
The lucrative All-Star Game is a coveted hosting opportunity for ballparks across North America.
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom appeared to offer up his home state for the hosting gig shortly after the announcement, tweeting: “Hey @MLB — feel free to give us a call. In California we actually work to expand voter access — not prevent it.”
Hey @MLB — feel free to give us a call.
In California we actually work to expand voter access — not prevent it.https://t.co/FTeI4AjPaC
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 2, 2021
The Coca-Cola Co and Delta Air Lines on Wednesday joined a bid by US companies to challenge Georgia’s new restrictions.
Microsoft Corp, which in February announced a major new investment in Atlanta, Georgia’s capital, added its voice, with President Brad Smith saying provisions of the law “unfairly restrict the rights of people to vote legally, securely, and safely”.
Citi Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said in a LinkedIn post he was “appalled by the recent voter suppression” passed in Georgia.
Dozens of Black executives, including Merck & Co Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Frazier, called on their peers in US companies to push back against wider restrictions on voting rights.
Delta and Coca-Cola had faced the threat of boycotts from activists who said they needed to do more to oppose the law.
Critics questioned why Delta and other companies did not speak out before Kemp signed the restrictions into law.
Coca-Cola’s CEO James Quincey called the law “unacceptable – it is a step backwards”. He told CNBC news the law was “wrong and it needs to be remedied”.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a company memo on Wednesday: “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections.
“The final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” the memo said.