“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,” Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said in a statement. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
Georgia Republicans passed restrictive changes to the state election process last month. The new law adds a host of restrictions, including requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law immediately, calling it “common sense” legislation while aligning himself with former President Donald Trump in remarks promoting the bill.
MLB is “finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly,” according to Manfred. The commissioner said All-Star Game festivities would still include tributes to Henry Aaron, the legendary Braves slugger who died earlier this year at age 86.
The All-Star Game, which features the best players of the National and American Leagues, had been slated for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last year but had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process,” Manfred added. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
The Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” by the MLB action and had hoped the All-Star Game would serve as a vehicle to highlight the importance of voting rights.
“This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said in a statement.
“The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion.”
Kemp defended the state’s voter restrictions Friday and accused MLB of wilting to “fear” and “political opportunism.”
“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,” he said in a statement. “If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.”
While Truist Park is in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned her constituents that MLB’s move will likely be the first “of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”
“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” she said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Democrat who represents Georgia, said that the state’s Republican Party is out of control and that Georgia is “hemorrhaging business and jobs because of their disastrous new Jim Crow voting law.”
“The Governor and the legislature are deliberately making it harder for Black voters to vote,” Ossoff said in a statement Friday. “They know it. Everybody knows it, and this egregious and immoral assault on voting rights has also put our state’s economy at grave risk.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from neighboring Florida, blasted MLB for caving to public pressure.
“Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes regulations & anti-trust?” Rubio tweeted.
This week, President Joe Biden said he would strongly support moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia to protest the new law.
MLB’s action follows strong statements from the Georgia-based companies Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines blasting the state’s law.
Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader, said in a statement Friday that she’s “disappointed” that MLB officials took the All-Star Game from Atlanta but is “proud of their stance on voting rights.”
“As I have stated, I respect boycotts, although I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs,” she added. “Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states. We should not abandon the victims of GOP malice and lies — we must stand together.”