Story at a glance
- Last week Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) passed a new law that will put restrictions on voting by mail, among other things.
- The Republican bill has a number of high profile critics such as Stacey Abrams, former President Obama and President Biden, who say it will suppress voters, especially those of color.
- Taking a stand against the move is MLB, which made the controversial decision to move this summer’s All-Star Game away from Atlanta.
MLB created waves when it announced last Friday the decision to move their 2021 All-Star Game out of the city of Atlanta. The move came in response to widespread concern regarding a new Georgia law that critics believe will restrict voting access in the state, especially for people of color. The 2021 MLB draft will also be relocated.
"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," said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. "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."
It all started last week, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law a Republican-sponsored bill that includes new restrictions on voting by mail, as well as greater control over how elections are run. Other restrictions include volunteers now being prohibited from distributing food and water to voters waiting in line.
The new law comes in response to the blue victories in both presidential and Senate elections in the typically conservative-leaning state, which former President Trump and his supporters called fraudulent.
Supporters of the new law say that it helps to ensure election integrity and mitigate potential fraud, while critics are calling it a voter-suppression tactic that will make it more difficult for those living in certain urban communities to vote. A recent examination of the bill by The New York Times identified 16 provisions within its 98 pages that could hinder Georgians' right to vote, or strip power from state and local elections officials instead giving it to legislators.
Taking a stand
The league’s decision to move the All-Star Game came after three groups had already filed a lawsuit over the measure and as large companies such as Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the new law.
Jason Heyward, a Chicago Cubs outfielder who grew up in the Atlanta area and was the first-round draft pick for the Atlanta Braves in 2007, said "it was nice see someone think outside the box and err on the side of respecting people and trying to push for equality."
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"I think you're not going to be able to please everybody," said Heyward, who is Black. "I know there's a lot of people in Atlanta that love baseball and were looking forward to see an All-Star Game there. A Midsummer Classic, I think that's special, as somebody growing up there and watching a lot of baseball. But at the same time, I think when you talk about a message, the people are still out here pushing for equality.''
Gov. Kemp has denounced the MLB’s decision, saying that the league “caved to fear and lies from liberal activists” and stating that he “will not be backing down from this fight.”
“Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the left, but I am not,” said Kemp.
Kemp has also added that conversations with the leadership of the Atlanta Braves revealed that the team does not seem to support the decision to move the game by the MLB. The move will reportedly cost the state tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to CNN.
"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 team said in a statement. "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.”
Standing in support of the decision by the MLB is The Players Alliance, which consists of more than 100 current and former players united in their goal to empower Black communities.
"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,” they said in a statement.
The fight in Texas
Another state locked into battle over voter rights is Texas, whose State Senate passed a bill last week that would limit early voting hours, ban drive-through voting, add restrictions to absentee voting and make it illegal for local election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to voters, even for qualified applicants.
Following the lead of the MLB, companies like American Airlines and Dell Technologies are now voicing their opposition to the legislation.
Michael Dell of Dell Technologies said that “free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy” and noted that “those rights — especially for women, communities of color — have been hard-earned.”
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