Baseball's All-Star Game moved from Atlanta over voting laws in Georgia
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred Manfred said they are 'finalising' plans for a new host city for the contest between American League and National League stars that was set for 13 July.
Major League Baseball moved its 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta on Friday after concerns that a new Georgia state law would negatively impact the ability of Black citizens to vote.
"The best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
Critics of a voting rights law signed by Georgia's Republican Governor Brian Kemp last week say the legisation creates severe restrictions upon voters, with tougher identification requirements for absentee voters and restricted use of ballot dropboxes.
US President Joe Biden told ESPN on Wednesday he supported moving the game out of Atlanta over the voting rights law.
Manfred said MLB is "finalising" plans for a new host city for the contest between American League and National League stars that was set for 13 July.
Manfred said the league "engaged in thoughtful conversations" with clubs, former and current players and the players' union to consider their views before making the decision.
"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred said.
"Fair access to voting continues to have our game's unwavering support."
The new law has brought protests and threats to boycott such Georgia-based firms as Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, which both came out against the new law.
Over #NBAAllStar in Atlanta, we called on lawmakers to drop their voter suppression bill. They didn’t.
Now, @MLB has decided to move their All-Star Game from Atlanta.
All the states still considering voter suppression bills should take note:
Actions have consequences. pic.twitter.com/b8DzPu97NQ
— More Than A Vote (@morethanavote) April 2, 2021
"Businesses and organizations have great power in their voices and ability to push for change, and I respect the decision of the players to speak out against this unjust law," US Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock of Georgia said in a statement.
"It is not the people of Georgia or the workers of Georgia who crafted this law, it is politicians seeking to retain power at the expense of Georgians' voices. And today's decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians' actions."
Among other moves, the law would make it a crime to hand water to people waiting in long lines to vote, saying it could offer an unfair opportunity to influence voters.
Georgia played a pivotal role in the recent US elections, with Democrats eventually winning two key Senate seats to ensure control of Congress.
Georgia governor Kemp meanwhile hit out at the MLB's decision Friday, accusing the league of "caving 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 the truth do not matter.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 2, 2021
I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 2, 2021
"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," Kemp tweeted.
The Atlanta Braves, the MLB club that was to have hosted the contest, meanwhile expressed dismay at the decision.
"The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its 2021 All-Star Game," the club said. "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 Braves statement regarding the moving of the MLB All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/0Iapm3eIre
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 2, 2021
"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."
But the move was applauded by other figures in the sports world.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 2, 2021
NBA superstar LeBron James, who has a stake in the ownership group that controls the Boston Red Sox, wrote on Twitter: "Proud to call myself a part of the @mlb family today. @Morethanavote #BlackLivesMatter."
I want to applaud and extend a thank you to @MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for moving the All Star Game out of Georgia following the Governor’s signing of the new restrictive voting law. Way to be a leader and take a strong stance!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 2, 2021
Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who is also a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, praised Manfred's decision to pull the game.
"Way to be a leader and take a strong stance!" Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Georgia senator Warnock meanwhile said the urgency of passing federal voter protection laws "grows every day" but he hopes "businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community."