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Decision by MLB to relocate the All-Star Game over Georgia’s Jim Crow-style voting law comes at a cost

As Republicans predictably cried foul over Major League Baseball’s April 2 decision to relocate the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s restrictive new voting law, prominent Democrats blamed the GOP for the economic toll the move will take on the Peach State.

Voting rights campaigner and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams—a Democrat whose loss some prominent observers have blamed on voter suppression—weighed in on MLB’s decision to deprive their state of an event that generates anywhere from tens of millions of dollars to over $100 million in revenue.

Abrams said in a statement that the Republicans behind the new law passed it “knowing the economic risks to our state” yet “prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of Georgians.”

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that MLB is relocating the All-Star Game,” she said. “However, I commend the players, owners, and league commissioner for speaking out.”

“Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states,” Abrams added. “Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy.”

“Republicans who passed and defended Senate Bill 202 did so knowing the economic risks to our state. They prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians.

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star game; however, I commend the players owners and League commissioner for speaking out. I urge others in positions of leadership to do so as well. As I have stated, I respect boycotts, although I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs. Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states. We should not abandon the victims of GOP malice and lies – we must stand together.

Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy. Our corporate community must get off the sidelines as full partners in this fight, acknowledging that the provisions of SB 202 do not expand voting rights. They restrict those rights, affecting employees and consumers alike. And leaders must publicly support the voting rights provisions in the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to mitigate the harm being done in Georgia and other states.

As other events, production and businesses weigh whether to patronize Georgia, I urge those who can to come and speak out, and I urge those who are here to stay and fight, to stay and vote. We need you. Please go to stopjimcrow2.com to find out more about how you can support democracy in America.”

In a statement Friday, MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said he “decided 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,” Manfred said. “In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the nonpartisan 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.”

Manfred said that although the All-Star Game will be relocated, “we will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron,” the Hall of Famer who played outfield for the Atlanta Braves when he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974, and who was a beloved community leader until his death in January.

“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.”

The decision to pull the Midsummer Classic from Atlanta came after the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed, and GOP Governor Brian Kemp signed into law, a sweeping voting restriction bill that critics say targets minority and urban voters.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, the law will “impose new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtail the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allow challenges to voting eligibility; make it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; block the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevent local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.”

Georgia’s two Democratic senators had differing views on the MLB move. In a statement, Sen. Raphael Warnock said that “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.”

“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,” he continued. “Today’s decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians’ actions.”

“It is my hope that 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,” added Warnock. “Additionally, the urgency to pass federal voter protection laws grows every day, and I will continue to be a leader in that fight.”

On the other hand, Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s other Democratic senator, strongly opposed the relocation.

“I absolutely oppose and reject any notion of boycotting Georgia,” he told the right-wing National Review. “Georgia welcomes business, investment, jobs, opportunity, and events. In fact, economic growth is driving much of the political progress we have seen here.”

“Georgia welcomes the world’s business,” Ossoff added. “Corporations disgusted like we are with the disgraceful voter suppression bill should stop any financial support to Georgia’s Republican Party, which is abusing its power to make it harder for Americans to vote.”

Highlighting the local reaction to the controversy, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball presenting the city as an alternative site for the All-Star Game in 2021. Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley followed with his own letter, amplifying the Mayor’s invitation and request for consideration.

I share your concerns about efforts to restrict voting rights in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States. And, I approve of your decision to relocate the 2021 All Star Game. As you review alternative sites for the game, I ask you to consider Milwaukee. It is a particularly appropriate location to honor Hank Aaron who is a revered and beloved former Milwaukeean. He started and concluded his Major League career with teams here. The City of Milwaukee would be honored to host the All Star Game, and you would have the full support of my office to make the festivities a success.” – Tom Barrett

I commend Major League Baseball’s decision to relocate the 2021 All-Star Game in response to the efforts to restrict voting rights in the state of Georgia. I join the Mayor Tom Barrett in asking you to consider choosing the City of Milwaukee as the new location for this year’s All-Star Game. Milwaukee would serve as an appropriate location to honor the life and legacy of the late Hank Aaron. He started and ended his career in Milwaukee and used his career as a platform to champion civil rights. On behalf of Milwaukee County, and the many local leaders here dedicated to the protection of civil rights and achieving racial equity, we would be honored to host the 2021 All-Star Game and pay homage to the memory a beloved Milwaukeean.” – David Crowley

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