ATLANTA – Major League Baseball announced Friday it is pulling this summer’s All-Star Game from Georgia in response to the General Assembly’s passage of an election bill that has been heavily criticized as voter suppression.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. wrote in a prepared statement.
“In 2020 … 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.”
Baseball’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game from Truist Park in Cobb County follows corporate criticism of the law by Atlanta-based companies, primarily Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola.
The Republican-controlled legislature passed the voting bill along party lines on the afternoon of March 25, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law later that day.
The sweeping measure overhauls the absentee voting process and early voting in Georgia. It replaces the current signature- match method for verifying absentee ballots with a requirement that absentee voters provide a driver’s license or one of several other forms of identification.
The law expands opportunities for early voting on weekends, a provision Kemp and other Republicans have pointed to in arguing the legislation is not aimed at restricting voting access.
The provision that has drawn the strongest criticism prohibits people who aren’t poll workers from handing out food and drink to voters waiting in line outside polling places. Republicans have said the provision is intended to prevent illegal electioneering by candidates or campaign workers within 150 feet of the polls.
Democrats around the country – notably President Joe Biden – had called on Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta since passage of the election law.
But in Georgia, Democrats have responded by opposing the move because of the economic consequences of losing the game.
“Disappointed MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights,” 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams wrote on Twitter. “Georgia GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed similar sentiments and warned further fallout from the voting law could follow.
“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms wrote.
Georgia Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, whose state House district includes Truist Park, said she was disappointed by the move.
“The American Rescue Plan exists because of the very Georgia voters who will be most impacted by the economic brunt of the decision to pull the MLB All-Star Game,” she said. “At the same time, I absolutely understand the disgust and frustration with our leadership in Georgia that ultimately led to this decision.”
Kemp released a statement after Friday’s announcement accusing Major League Baseball of caving in to “fear, political opportunism and liberal lies.
“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 truth do not matter.”
Both Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston attributed baseball’s decision to lies from Abrams about the new law.
“This decision is not only economically harmful,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “It also robs Georgians of a special celebration of our national pastime free of politics.”
In a news release, the Atlanta Braves wrote that businesses, stadium employees and baseballs fans will all be hurt by the decision.
“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 release stated. “Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times, and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.”
The new voting law has drawn the largest national outcry against Georgia since the General Assembly passed religious freedom legislation in 2016 that critics slammed as discriminatory. It drew boycott threats from local and national businesses, including the film industry, and then-Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it.
Manfred said Major League Baseball still plans to celebrate the memory of Braves Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron, who died in January, as part of the All-Star Game festivities.
A decision has not been made on a new host city for the game.
Staff writer Beau Evans contributed to this report.