This summer’s Major League Baseball Draft and the All-Star Game won’t be held in Atlanta, MLB officials announced Friday.
The withdrawal of the two events from the city in July is in response to Georgia’s recently enacted voting restrictions, which critics, including President Biden, have denounced as “Jim Crow in the 21st century” because they say the legislation will disproportionately affect communities of color.
“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,” league commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
“Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” Manfred said.
The Republican-led voting overhaul was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in March and has faced scathing backlash from prominent companies and business executives.
While supporters tout aspects of the law that expand in-person voting, critics have denounced dramatic changes to absentee voting rules, which add new identification requirements and also allow Georgia’s state election board — currently dominated by Republicans — to temporarily take over local election offices.
Another provision that has outraged voting rights advocates is that the bill makes it a misdemeanor to hand out food and drink to people waiting in line to vote. Last year, people waited in line for hours to cast their ballots.
The overhaul follows a record voting turnout last year in which 1.3 million absentee ballots were cast. The influx overwhelmed local elections officials as some Georgia counties, particularly Fulton County, remained in the national spotlight for days as the country watched closely contested presidential and Senate contests.
Manfred signaled earlier this week that a move of the All-Star Game was likely.
The organization says it is finalizing a new host city for the July 13 game and “details about these events will be announced shortly.”
The Atlanta Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” by the outcome.
“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.
“Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”
Meanwhile, the Players Alliance, which is made up of “150 Black professional baseball players united to use our voice and platform to create change and equality,” said it supports the MLB’s decision.
“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,” the group said in a statement.
The governor, who earlier this week told CNBC he’s “glad to deal” with corporate backlash, on Friday expressed his discontent with the MLB.
“Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies,” he said in a statement.
He added: “Georgians — and all Americans — should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.”
Despite plans to relocate the events from Georgia to another city, Manfred on Friday said, “MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward.”