Opinion | Civil Rights

MLB All-Star Game bombs in ratings again. Here's why

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Major League Baseball's All-Star Game was once "appointment viewing" in this country. In 1980, more than 36 million people tuned in. In 2015, in the age of interleague play, a still-respectable 11 million watched the American and National Leagues battle it out. 

But for Tuesday night's game, the Nielsen numbers were profoundly horrible: 8.24 million people tuned in, making it the second-least-watched All-Star Game in history. This number is stunning when considering what was billed as one of the most compelling lineups in years, one that included Los Angeles Angels' Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, who was the first player in All-Star Game history to be a starting pitcher and bat lead-off,  and the game's first two-way starter dating back to 1933.  

In other words, for the Ohtani factor alone, the numbers should have landed at least above the 10 million-viewer threshold, but didn't. And if you're looking for a big reason outside of cord-cutting, look no further than the backlash baseball is receiving for moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia to Colorado due to the former's new voting laws. 

Of course, Colorado's law governing early voting actually has a smaller time window than Georgia's, showing that Major League Baseball didn't do its homework before abruptly pulling the game out of Atlanta. Perhaps MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred read some of the headlines portraying the new law as racist.

"3 ways companies can help fight Georgia's restrictive new voting law" - CBS News

"Georgia's 'Jim Crow' voter suppression bill is now law. Here's how Democrats can fight back" - NBC News (published not in its opinion section but in its "Politics & Policy" section)  

"JIM CROW IN A SUIT AND TIE": GEORGIA PASSES MASSIVE VOTER SUPPRESSION BILL" - Vanity Fair

There are dozens of other examples, but you get their point: The Georgia law is a chilling threat to democracy. It's Jim Crow 2.0! 

President Biden jumped on the boycott-Georgia bandwagon as well, falsely claiming that the state's law ends voting hours so working people can't vote.

"What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick. It's sick ... deciding that you're going to end voting at five o'clock when working people are just getting off work," Biden told reporters at his first press conference on March 25. That claim was met with no pushback or scrutiny from the few reporters chosen to ask questions in the room at the time.

"Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over," Biden also said in a statement on March 26.  

The Washington Post fact-checker promptly awarded Biden its worst judgement, "Four Pinocchios," for lying to the American people.

No matter: The MLB and Manfred panicked and packed up to move the game from Atlanta's Truist Park to Coors Field in Denver. Wokeness won the day - but one has to wonder whether MLB feels major league remorse over its decision.

Businesses in Cobb County, Ga., which were already devastated as a result of the pandemic, lost at least $100 million collectively in tourism-induced business when the game was moved. Cobb County is a majority Black community, while Denver decidedly is not.

Bang-up job, MLB! A grand slam of utter incompetence!

The falling ratings aren't just happening in baseball, either. The NBA Finals currently underway can't draw even 10 million viewers. The league saw just 8.6 million viewers tune in for Game 1 of Bucks-Suns. For context, in 2019 before the pandemic, Game 1 of the Finals between a team from a Canadian market (the Toronto Raptors) and the Golden State Warriors took in almost double the 2021 number, delivering more than 15 million viewers. In 1998, when the apolitical Michael Jordan was the face of the league, Game 1 of Bulls-Jazz registered nearly 30 million viewers.

Primary reason? The NBA also has gone full woke in embracing Black Lives Matter while even boycotting their own games last year.

Its biggest star, LeBron James, seemingly talks more about how horrible police are than about the game itself. And the blowback is real.

Major League Baseball's All-Star Game used to be magical. Its viewership was higher than the population of Texas. Now it can't even beat your average episode of "NCIS."

Go woke, go broke: Major League Baseball is finding that out the hard way. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.

The original column stating that this year's All Star Game was the least-watched in history was based on preliminary numbers from major markets. The column has been updated to reflect the final viewership total, per Nielsen Media Research.

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