The MLB released a statement on April 2 announcing the relocation of the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta. Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement.
“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,” the announcement reads. “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.”
A week earlier, Georgia lawmakers approved legislation that places new restrictions on voting access, makes it more difficult to vote by mail and gives the state legislature more power over elections. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill despite widespread criticism that it amplifies voter suppression and disproportionately targets Black communities. Voter data suggests the Black community was a huge factor in President Joe Biden’s victory in the state and the two Georgia U.S. Senate elections, as Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) emerged victorious in their January runoffs.
The bill decreases the amount of absentee ballot drop boxes, creates a number of challenges to the qualifications of a voter, shortens the runoff election period from nine to four weeks and significantly cuts the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot. The bill even bans providing food or water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots.
State Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Ga.), who voted against the bill, said the bill would make it harder to vote, especially for the poor, the disabled and Black citizens.
“We are witnessing a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era,” Butler said before the bill was signed into law.
The Braves were also disappointed by the MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game. In a statement, the team said it is unfortunate that “businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of the decision.” Although the Braves stressed how important equal voting opportunities are to them, the organization is being criticized for their statement, making the game and money seem more important than justice in the law.
In response to the new voter restriction laws, there was public outcry to move the 2021 MLB All-Star Game from Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. In an interview with ESPN, Biden criticized Georgia’s voting restrictions, calling them “Jim Crow on steroids.” The president added he would support moving the MLB All-Star Game out of Atlanta.
For weeks, activists have been placing pressure and calling for boycotts on Atlanta-based corporations such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Aflac, UPS and Southern Company. Since these companies are headquartered in Georgia, activists want to see them use their power to oppose the legislation. After weeks of criticism for not speaking out, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey released a statement on Georgia’s new voting restrictions.
“Let me get crystal clear and unequivocal, this legislation is unacceptable,” Quincy said. “It is a step backwards and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting.”
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian received similar backlash. Bastian sent out a memo on March 26 in which he said he understood concerns about the law but applauded various elements, suggesting it had “improved considerably during the legislative process.” In a more recent memo, however, Bastian reversed his stance and said he now recognizes that “the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected. Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) April 2, 2021
For businesses like the MLB, who inspire and influence millions of people, it is crucial that they speak out. Athletes in particular are the perfect advocates to bring about change as they have enormous influence over culture and society.
American Express CEO Ken Chenault called on corporate America to advocate against voter suppression. “Corporations have to stand up — there is no middle ground,” Chenault said. “This is about all Americans having the right to vote. But we need to recognize the special history of the denial of a right to vote for Black Americans. And we will not be silent.”
The MLB has not yet announced where the game will be relocated. What we do know is that baseball fans in Atlanta will have to wait to see all of the MLB’s top players play in their city.