Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. announced Friday that the All-Star Game and 2021 draft will be moved from Atlanta after Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a restrictive voting bill into law last week.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” the statement read, adding that the new host city is yet to be decided.
The game was scheduled for July 13 at the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park.
Here’s MLB’s announcement that it is moving the All Star Game. Future site still undetermined. pic.twitter.com/I6GKbpHlL9
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 2, 2021
President Joe Biden endorsed such a move on Wednesday, during an interview on ESPN.
“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly,” he said. “I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They’re leaders.”
In a statement, the Atlanta Braves said they were “saddened” by the decision and had hoped to use the event as a platform to “enhance the discussion” on voting rights.
Atlanta won the bid to host the All-Star game back in May of 2019, the third time it would have hosted but first at its new Truist Park stadium, about 10 miles outside of downtown Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves had been lobbying to host the game since 2017, when the new park first opened.
“When we built SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta we envisioned our complex would be the perfect setting for an All-Star Game and we are thrilled to be able to showcase the ballpark, Cobb County and the City of Atlanta to the world,” Atlanta Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk said back when they won the nod. SunTrust Park has since been renamed.
Atlanta won the bid over 10 other cities in part, Manfred said at the time, due to its stadium complex.
“Short of a World Series game occurring in this ballpark, which we hope will happen very soon, this is the largest event in the world of baseball,” Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said when Atlanta was chosen.
In a sign of how important the event is both in the world of baseball and to the city itself, officials from Kemp to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms were all present at the official announcement. Events were planned to occur throughout the city as part of a multi-day attraction beyond the game itself.
Pressure has intensified on various businesses headquartered in Georgia to denounce the new law, and some have called for boycotts of those that don’t.
Some of Georgia’s biggest companies, like Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, have put out statements criticizing it as anger mounts that they didn’t do enough to stop its passage.
But various Georgia leaders say that a boycott would hurt the very people in Georgia critics say the bill is meant to suppress.
Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams tweeted out a nuanced reaction after the MLB’s announcement.
Disappointed @MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights. GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression. On behalf of PoC targeted by #SB202 to lose votes + now wages, I urge events & productions to come & speak out or stay & fight. #gapol
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) April 2, 2021
Manfred specifically said in his statement that “planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta” will move forward, a seeming attempt to circumvent some of that second-hand economic loss for locals.
Republican lawmakers in Georgia have been considering retaliating against companies who denounce the law.
A similar dynamic is playing out in Texas where a pair of suppressive bills are wending their way through the legislature.
American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, said that it was “strongly opposed” to a bill that passed the state Senate on Thursday, as well as “others like it.” That bill in particular cracks down on Harris County, which includes Houston and is over 50 percent Black or hispanic, and loosens rules around partisan poll watchers, which critics fear will lead to increased voter intimidation.
Microsoft, which employs 1,500 Texans, and the CEO of Dell Technologies, which is based in Round Rock, denounced a bill with similar provisions in the state House.
Republicans there, like their Georgia counterparts, are displeased with the corporate backlash.
“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) in a statement.