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MLB moves All-Star game out of Atlanta in response to new Georgia voting law

Major League Baseball is moving this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta, the league announced Friday.

“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

No new site for the game was announced. However, since Dodger Stadium already is set to host the 2022 All-Star game, the Dodgers are not under consideration to host this year’s game, according to a person familiar with the league’s thinking.

California’s governor asks for an All-Star Game – and rips his Georgia counterpart, all in one tweet.

(By the way, the Dodgers aren’t getting this year’s All-Star Game, as they’re hosting next year.) https://t.co/2Hjh82SeqJ

— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 2, 2021

The announcement comes eight days after Georgia adopted a law that voting rights advocates across the country say will make it harder for people to vote, likely disproportionately affecting Black and other minority voters.

In his statement, Manfred said he had spoken with players, owners, team officials, and leaders from the players’ union and Players Alliance. The decision was Manfred’s alone; the union has no say in where the game is played.

Said Manfred: “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

In its statement supporting the decision, the Players Alliance noted its opposition to the Georgia law “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.”

MLB had been under political pressure from all sides, and the league also had become concerned that an All-Star game in Atlanta could be swallowed up by the issue. What if, for instance, Dodgers star Mookie Betts had decided not to play? When Betts sat out a game last year to call attention to racial injustice, his teammates stood with him, and the Dodgers called off that game.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had said last week he would consider not accepting the honor of managing the National League team if the game were not moved. On Wednesday, President Biden told ESPN he strongly supported the idea of moving the game.

In Georgia, anger erupted from the Atlanta Braves — the team that would have played host to the game — and from state officials.

Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted that the league had “caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies” and warned “cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included.”

The Braves said that they were “deeply disappointed” by the decision, that they had not recommended such a decision to MLB and that “businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

Stacey Abrams of Fair Fight Action, the state’s foremost voting rights advocate, tweeted: “Disappointed will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights. GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression.”

MLB could announce a new All-Star site as soon as next week.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom reached out to MLB via Twitter: “Feel free to give us a call. In California, we work to expand voter access — not prevent it.” However, given California’s cautious response to the pandemic, it is unlikely MLB would award the game where full stadiums might not be allowed by July.

The mayor of Baltimore also lobbied for the game too via Twitter: “Here in Baltimore we strongly support voting rights as do our beloved Orioles,” Mayor Brandon Scott wrote.

The move — relocating a crown event to reflect a political position — is unprecedented for MLB, but not in professional sports.

In 2011, after Arizona passed a law that empowered police officers to ask drivers for immigration papers during routine stops, MLB resisted pressure to move the All-Star game from Phoenix.

However, after North Carolina adopted its so-called bathroom bill in 2016, forcing transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificates, the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, N.C. After the law was changed, the NBA awarded Charlotte its 2019 All-Star game.

The NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona after voters there rejected a measure to make Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. Voters later approved the holiday, and the NFL awarded the 1996 Super Bowl to Phoenix.

In his statement, Manfred said the league would continue with plans to honor Hank Aaron at this year’s All-Star game and would honor its previously planned charitable commitments within the Atlanta area.

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