April 2 (UPI) — MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. announced Friday that the 2021 All-Star Game and draft will be moved out of Georgia in response to the state’s strict, new voting rules.
He said the decision came after discussions with current and former players, the Players Association and the Players Alliance.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
“In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States.
“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. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
The All-Star Game and draft were scheduled to take place the week of July 11 in Atlanta.
Manfred said the league still plans to continue with its planned investments in local Atlanta communities as part of its All-Star Legacy Project. He said a new host city will be announced shortly.
The Atlanta Braves issued a statement saying the team was “deeply disappointed” by the move.
“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 statement said. “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.
“Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”
The new law imposes voter ID requirements, limits ballot drop boxes, allows the state to take over local elections and prohibits non-election workers from offering food or drink to people waiting in line to vote.
It also expands early voting for primary and general elections, but not runoffs, and shortens the time between an election and runoff from nine weeks to four weeks.
Multiple civil and voting rights groups have sued Georgia over the new law, saying it makes it harder for Georgians of color to vote.
A lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and several law firms — accuses the state of enacting a law that violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as three amendments of the Constitution by creating restrictions to voting.
The day before the MLB’s announcement, President Joe Biden said he would “strongly support” a league decision to move the All-Star Game and draft from Atlanta.
“People look to them,” Biden said in an ESPN interview, speaking of the influence professional athletes have.
“They’re leaders. Look at what happened with the NBA, as well. Look what’s happened across the board. The very people who were victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it’s just not right.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., slammed the move.
“The @MLB needs to stop listening to their corporate communist sponsors and remember the little guys who buy their tickets,” she tweeted. “The same people who are now saying they are done with professional sports. Keep the politics off the field and stop ruining everything!”
Scenes from MLB opening day at Yankee Stadium