MLB moves All-Star game out of Atlanta over Georgia voter restrictions

Sports

A baseball with MLB logo is seen at Citizens Bank Park before a game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies on June 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

ATLANTA (WBTW) — The MLB announced Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star game out of Atlanta over new voting restrictions in Georgia.

The league said it is finalizing a new host city and will make an announcement “shortly.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred said the MLB supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes any restrictions to the ballot box.

The league engaged in conversations with clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance over the last week to listen to their views, Manfred said.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp called the decision “cancel culture” and said the MLB “caved to fear.”

“Today, MLB 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 the truth do not matter.”

Kemp also blamed Stacey Abrams and President Biden for the MLB’s decision.

Georgia passed the controversial law after false claims from former President Trump that the election was stolen. No evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election was ever found.

The Atlanta Braves released a statement expressing their disappointment that the game was moved.

“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 said. “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.”

Read the full statement from the MLB below:

“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.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. 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.

“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities. In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”

President Pro Tempore Butch Miller released a statement saying the MLB’s decision was based on “misinformation.”

“I am disappointed to hear the news that MLB will not be holding its All-Star Game here in Georgia, a decision which will only hurt Georgia workers, businesses and fans. Unfortunately, this decision was brought about by our very own U.S. Senators and the sitting President of the United States, who continue to repeat misinformation that even the liberal Washington Post recognized is false. The truth, however, is simple: Georgia offers far more opportunities to vote than most states in our country, including the President’s own home state, Delaware, and those opportunities were expanded by SB 202.”

Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff blasted Georgia republicans, blaming them for the MLB pulling the game out of Georgia.

“The leadership of Georgia’s Republican Party is out of control and Georgia is hemorrhaging business and jobs because of their disastrous new Jim Crow voting law. The Governor and the legislature are deliberately making it harder for Black voters to vote. They know it. Everybody knows it and this egregious and immoral assault on voting rights has also put our state’s economy at great risk.”

Georgia’s Attorney General said the blame for the MLB’s decision belongs to Stacey Abrams, President Biden, and Georgia’s newly-elected democratic senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

The relocation of high-profile sports events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the U.S.

The NFL originally awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.

The NBA first scheduled its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, then shifted it in July 2016 because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017, and the 2019 All-Star Game was held in Charlotte.

NCAA officials decided in 2001 to ban awarding championship sites in advance to states that displayed the Confederate flag but did not alter events whose sites were determined by seeding or ranking. That was expanded last June to prevent any NCAA championship event from being played where the flag had a prominent presence. Mississippi’s governor signed a law less than two weeks later to retire the flag.

Manfred said despite the change of venue, MLB still plans to use the All-Star Game this year to honor Hank Aaron, the Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, a former teammate of Aaron’s, applauded the move and said the late outfielder “always had the rights of the people in the forefront of his mind and in his heart.”

“This is what Hank would have liked, even if it was his town,” Baker told reporters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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