Major League Baseball announced Friday afternoon that it will withdraw the 2021 All-Star Game and the Atlanta MLB Draft in response to recent voting legislation passed by the Georgia legislature and signed by Governor Brian Kemp.
A new location has not been announced yet. Senate Bill 202 – that you can read in its entirety here – has been widely criticized by advocates of the right to vote.
TO New York Times piece Summing up the bill, he called it “… an impressive assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting difficult and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses for Democrats. The New York Times has reviewed and annotated the law, identifying 16 provisions that impede the right to vote for some Georgians or take power away from state and local election officials and give it to legislators. “
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This line from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, in his statement, echoes that interpretation of the bill: “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions on the polls.” .
Still, it’s a somewhat surprising move for MLB, moving the location of the All-Star Game based on legislation passed by politicians, though it is unprecedented in sports in this country.
The NBA moved its All-Star Game out of Charlotte in 2017, in response to House Bill 2, which was passed by North Carolina politicians and limited anti-discrimination measures in the state. After changes were made, partly due to pressure from groups like the NBA, the league hosted its All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2019. The WNBA has been at the forefront of social justice issues, with players from the The WNBA playing a major role in shaping the 2020 Georgia Senate elections, the outcome of which has been seen as a motivation for the legislation that prompted recent MLB action.
The NBA and the WNBA have long been the most progressive and socially active leagues. For MLB to do this, the day after Opening Day and just three and a half months before the All-Star Game, is a big step for the league.
Here is the Manfred’s full statement :
“Over the past week, we have engaged in serious discussions with clubs, past and current players, the Players Association and the Players Alliance, among others, to hear their views. I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is to relocate this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports the voting rights of all Americans and opposes restrictions on the polls. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the nonpartisan Civic Alliance to help build an all-involved future in shaping America. We proudly use our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities across our country to fulfill their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have the unwavering support of our game.
“We will continue our plans to celebrate Hank Aaron’s memory during this season’s All-Star festivities. Additionally, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our Legacy All-Star Projects will continue. We are finalizing a new host city and details on these events will be announced shortly. “
Wherever it is held, the All-Star Game events were already going to be a little different this year. In addition to the Futures Game (July 11), the Home Run Derby (July 12) and the All-Star Game (July 13), MLB was, for the first time, the venue for its draft along with the festivities.
The draft had been held in mid-June for decades, but the date change was designed to draw a little more attention to the annual event. A July draft also means that players will not be selected during the College World Series.
News of the Georgia move immediately sent shockwaves through the sports world, and the responses, applauding and condemning the move, will not stop anytime soon. Let’s see how MLB handles it.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.