Major League Baseball announced Friday that its All-Star Game will no longer be held in Atlanta after Georgia’s governor signed a restrictive voting-rights bill into law last week.
The bill, signed by Governor Brian Kemp, requires identification for mail-in ballots and greatly restricts the usage of ballot drop boxes, which came into greater use during the height of the pandemic.
“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views. 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,” MLB commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement.
Manfred said that the league “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” citing how the MLB was the first league to join Civil Alliance, a nonpartisan group that advocates for voter rights and access.
“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,” he added.
Manfred said the league still intends to honor the life and legacy of Hank Aaron, the legendary player who spent the bulk of his career with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves franchise, as part of their All-Star program. The league indicated that a final host city is still being decided upon and will soon be announced.
President Biden, who strongly opposes the electoral changes made by Georgia Republicans, had indicated this week that he would support the league moving the game out of Atlanta in response.
“I think today’s athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that,” Biden told ESPN. “People look to them, they’re leaders. Look at what’s happened with the NBA as well. Look at what’s happened across the board. The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these very sports. And it’s just not right. This is Jim Crow on steroids what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”
Kemp quickly made his opposition to the move known, releasing a statement that read, “Today, Major League Baseball caved 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.”
There is a precedent for a major sports league to take this type of action. In 2017, the NBA moved their All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans due to North Carolina’s passage of HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” which barred trans people from using the public restroom consistent with their gender identity.