MLB plays politics, not baseball
Georgia’s voting law sparks a corporation-driven boycott
Major League Baseball’s decision to relocate its July All-Star Game from Atlanta because of Georgia’s new election law has people choosing sides and fact-checkers yelling, “Foul!”
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday he’s moving the midsummer event and the MLB draft from Atlanta to an as yet undetermined location, saying he made the decision after consulting teams, players, and players’ organizations. Others say he folded to political and corporate pressure, noting the election law expands, not restricts, voter access. They call the MLB’s decision harmful to the city and the individuals it claims to defend, and they pointed out the league just sealed a deal with a Communist-backed tech company in China, where free elections don’t exist.
On March 25, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the new law, a response to concerns about security and fairness during the 2020 presidential election.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the law restricts voter access and later told ESPN he’d “strongly support” MLB moving the All-Star Game. Citing Biden’s criticisms as false, The Washington Post gave the president “four Pinocchios”—its worst accuracy rating—for claiming the law ends voting hours early and limits voting opportunities. “Experts say the net effect was to expand opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them,” Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote.
Opponents continued to insist the law will suppress votes from African Americans because it requires identification when requesting and mailing ballots. (Georgia already requires ID to vote in-person.) OutKick sports media founder Clay Travis lambasted that argument, saying, “You need an ID to pick up tickets to attend a baseball game. Or to get a beer inside once you’re there. But MLB is moving the game because you need an ID to vote? This is pure insanity.”
ESPN’s Howard Bryant said pressure from corporate sponsors caused MLB to change venues, according to his sources. He tweeted players did not threaten to boycott and did not get to vote on the issue. The Atlanta Braves organization announced it was “deeply disappointed” over MLB’s move and had hoped Atlanta’s hosting would enhance discussions of voting.
Coca-Cola and Delta, another Atlanta-based company, say they worked behind the scenes for changes to the original bill. But Delta CEO Ed Bastian condemned the final version, saying it didn’t mesh with Delta’s values and wasn’t necessary because the rationale for it—allegations of widespread voter fraud—was “based on a lie.”
Kemp rebuffed Bastian’s statements: “At no point did Delta share any opposition to expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop-boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections—which is exactly what this bill does.” Kemp added he had to show his photo ID last time he flew Delta.
Liberal activists are calling for boycotts of Georgia-based companies for not doing enough to block the legislation. MLB’s All-Star Game decision alone will financially harm a sizable portion of the population MLB says it’s defending. The city of Atlanta is predominantly black, and more than 30 percent of its businesses are black-owned. Last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles generated a city-wide spending increase of $89 million. In 2000, when Atlanta last hosted the game, the economic impact to the city was $49 million, according to the Baseball Almanac.
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., doesn’t support moving the All-Star Game and opposes all boycotts but says corporations should stop supporting the Republican Party. Former President Donald Trump is calling for boycotts of the MLB for caving to liberal pressures.
The same week it exited Atlanta, MLB signed a deal with Chinese tech company Tencent to stream 125 games in China. This is the same company that in 2019 yanked NBA games after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
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