MLB pulls All-Star game from Atlanta over new voting law

ATLANTA — Major League Baseball has announced that the All-Star game and MLB Draft is being pulled out of Atlanta.

“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 D. Manfred, Jr. said in a statement.

The all-star game was supposed to be played at Truist Park in July, but now the MLB commissioner said they will choose another spot.

The move comes one week after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new election bill into law that makes ballot drop boxes an official part of Georgia elections and replaces signature matches on absentee ballots with a voter ID.

Critics, however, contend the new law is more about voter suppression than election integrity, especially the law preventing people from providing food and water to voters within 150 feet of polling places.

[READ: President Biden ‘strongly supports’ moving MLB All-Star game out of Atlanta]

“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,” the statement continued.

“The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its’ 2021 All Star Game,” The Braves said in a statement Friday. “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 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. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.

“Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision. We will continue to support the community legacy projects which have been planned and are in process.”

[READ: EXPLAINER: What does Georgia’s new GOP election law do?]

The MLB Players Alliance issued a statement in support of the decision, saying:

“We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition of the recent Georgia legislation that not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws based largely on widespread falsehoods and disinformation.

“While we will support those in need in whichever city the game is ultimately relocated to, we will also uphold our commitment to those Georgians we’ve already planned to serve. We will use our voice, our platform, and our partnerships now more than ever to create real, tangible change for the Black community to stand up for every American’s right to vote.

“We will not be silenced. We won’t back down in the fight for racial equity. We will never stop breaking barriers to the ballot box.”

From the moment Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 202, he and the new law have drawn withering criticism.

In an exclusive interview with Channel 2′s Jovita Moore Friday night, Kemp said MLB “caved to the cancel culture and a bunch of liberal lies.”

“I believe for your viewers at home, you might as well get ready because now that they’re coming for your baseball game, they’re going to come after your business, they’re going to come after your way of life. But I’m going to tell you, I’m not backing down,” Kemp said.

The governor said the new law actually expands options for the state’s elections.

“If this bill hadn’t passed, you wouldn’t have drop boxes right now. They’ve never been in the law before. It was only done because of an emergency power of the state election board had under the public health state of emergency. So if this bill hadn’t passed, we wouldn’t even be able to allow ... to have drop boxes. We’ve addressed that in a secure way and adding those to counties who did have them during 2020,” Kemp said. “In this bill, we fixed that by mandating more equipment at the precincts. And if people have to wait for over an hour, it forces the county elections office the next election to do something about that so people aren’t out there long enough that there’s a need to do that. I mean it’s ridiculous for people to have to stand in line for six hours.”

Cobb County Commission Chair Lisa Cupid said the decision is hard hit on a lot of levels.

[READ: Tyler Perry urges DOJ to look into Georgia’s new election law]

“I can say it was fruitful where we discussed the decision that was going to be made. Certainly, I appealed for them to stay here in Cobb County,” Cupid said.

The decision is also a huge blow to the economy, especially for restaurants and hotels already hammered by the pandemic. Many local business owners expected the midsummer classic to help make up for the previous 12 months

“We have had a lot of men and women working across our county to make this event happen and we were willing to invest in it because we saw a return coming to the county. And again, that’s disheartening to us,” Cupid said.

“It’s bad enough that the pandemic hurt these restaurants and businesses but now the All-Star game and last year the Final Four, so it’s just two big hits,” one baseball fan said.

Earlier this week, the chief executives of Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola came out against the bill. The law even drew criticism from President Joe Biden.

In an interview with ESPN’s Sage Steele, Biden said he would “strongly support” moving the MLB All-Star game out of Atlanta.

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly,” Biden said. “I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They’re leaders. Look at what’s happened with the NBA, as well.”

Other big sporting events that have been moved:

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.

Metro lawmakers react to MLB’s decision:

“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected. Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted.

Sen. Raphael Warnock released at statement saying:

“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. And 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. Additionally, the urgency to pass federal voter protection laws grows every day, and I will continue to be a leader in that fight.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff released a statement saying:

“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 grave risk.”

“Stacey Abrams’ leftist lies have stolen the All-Star Game from Georgia. This decision is not only economically harmful, it also robs Georgians of a special celebration of our national pastime free of politics. But Georgia will not be bullied by socialists and their sympathizers. We will continue to stand for accessible, secure elections that are free and fair. And we will continue to speak truth despite extortion and intimidation,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement.

Stacey Abrams released the following statement:

“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, productions 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 how you can join the fight for voting rights in Georgia and around the country.

Rep. Buddy Carter called MLB pathetic:

“The MLB is absolutely pathetic. The organization has completely caved to the lies of the Left and America’s pastime has now become a political tool for the liberal mob. Let’s be clear - Georgia will be losing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars because Democrats, including the President of the United States, have been spreading lies about Georgia’s Election Integrity Act. Georgians have a deep love for the sport, but this move from the MLB is an attack on both our state and on free and fair elections. Georgians can fight back with their pocketbooks just as I’ll be fighting back in Congress.”

“We all have a responsibility to live our values. This is our civil rights moment, and there are not two sides to this issue. Everyone deserves free and fair access to the ballot box. I am proud the Major League Baseball Players’ Union made their voices heard in support of voting rights,” Rep. Nikema Williams said.

“The @MLB needs to stop listening to their corporate communist sponsors and remember the little guys who buy their tickets. The same people who are now saying they are done with professional sports. Keep the politics off the field and stop ruining everything!” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said in a tweet.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.