MLB Players Could Force the All-Star Game Out of Georgia Over the New Voter Restriction Law

The commissioner and player's association chief have been in ongoing conversations about the topic.
April 1, 2021, 5:06pm
An overview of the stadium before the Braves home opener between the Atlanta Braves and the Tampa Bay Rays on July, 29, 2020 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

Georgia just passed a major voter suppression law, and it seems that Major League Baseball players are not too thrilled about it. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday that he’s begun talking to the MLB Players’ Association Chief Tony Clark about potentially moving the 2021 All-Star Game game out of Atlanta, the Associated Press reported, though Manfred was cagey about exactly what the conversations entailed.

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“He wanted to have a conversation. I completely understand why Tony would want to have a conversation about this topic. We’ve actually had a preliminary kind of conversation, and there will be more substantive conversations about that,” Manfred said. “I am talking to various constituencies within the game and I’m just not going beyond that in terms of what I would consider or not consider.”

Clark told the Boston Globe last week that the MLBPA is “very much aware” of the new Georgia laws, and that it would “look forward to having that conversation.” 

And Dave Roberts, the 2020 World Series-winning manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the second Black manager to win a World Series, said last week he’d consider not managing any Dodger games in Atlanta because of Georgia’s new voting law.  

“If it gets to that point, it’ll certainly be a decision I’ll have to make personally,” Roberts told the Los Angeles Times.

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President Joe Biden said in an interview with ESPN Wednesday that he would “strongly support” moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

In November, Biden narrowly won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. A few months later, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Senate seats. Former President Donald Trump baselessly accused Georgia officials, including Republic Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, of enabling election fraud and turning the election for Democrats.

The Georgia legislature, still in Republican control despite the best Democratic performance in a generation, has since moved to tighten the state’s voting laws. The “reforms” they passed last month, which were quickly signed by Kemp, are widely considered to be aimed at suppressing voter turnout in the state, and suppressing voters of color in particular. The bill makes it a crime to give voters water and snacks while they wait in line to vote, limits access to ballot drop-boxes, and gives state officials the ability to take over local elections boards. 

If MLB did decide to move the All-Star game out of Atlanta, the move wouldn’t be unprecedented. 

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After North Carolina passed the anti-trans House Bill 2 in 2016, the National Basketball Association took its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. After the law was repealed—and replaced by one that was still condemned by civil rights groups and activists—the league gave Charlotte the 2019 All-Star Game instead. 

Cobb County Commission chair Lisa Cupid, whose county is where the Atlanta Braves’ stadium is located, said Wednesday she would meet with the MLBPA soon to “hear what they would like to consider for them to remain here.”

The new Georgia voting law hasn’t just drawn criticism from the baseball world.  

It was denounced this week by some of Georgia’s largest corporations, including Coke and Delta Airlines, despite the companies previously staying silent on the voter restriction push when it was happening. 

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote in an internal memo Wednesday, according to the New York Times. He also said the legislation was “based on a lie.”

After Bastian came out against the bill, the Georgia House passed a last-minute repeal of a tax break on jet fuel in the final hours of the legislative session, which the state House speaker admitted was retaliation. (The repeal did not pass the state Senate.)

“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them, and they reap the rewards of those benefits and then turn around and do this,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston told reporters Wednesday, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting. “As all of you know, I can’t resist a country boy line or two, you don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You’ve got to keep that in mind.”