Major League Baseball announced Friday that it will move this year’s draft and All-Star game out of Atlanta after Georgia lawmakers adopted a series of voting restrictions that advocates say will suppress turnout among people of color.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp last Friday, imposes new ID requirements for absentee ballots, criminalizes giving voters food and water while they stand in lines, hands over control of county election boards to the state’s Republican-led legislature, and limits the use of ballot drop boxes.
Republicans have said the new law will restore confidence in the state’s elections after Donald Trump lied about election fraud when he lost Georgia to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. But Democrats and voting advocates have decried the bill as “Jim Crow 2.0,” arguing that the restrictions will suppress turnout, especially among Black and brown voters, who showed up in record numbers to lead Democrats to victory in the presidential and Senate elections.
In a series of tweets, Kemp criticized MLB, calling the league’s decision a “knee-jerk decision” and an “attack” on the state of Georgia.
“I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections,” the governor tweeted.
Stacey Abrams, a leading voting rights activist and Georgia’s former Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said she was disappointed by the league’s decision, but also proud of them for speaking out.
“I respect boycotts, although I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs,” Abrams said in a statement. “Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy.”
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock said he also respected the decision, saying that it was “an unfortunate consequence” of state lawmakers’ actions.
“It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community,” Warnock said in a statement. “Additionally, the urgency to pass federal voter protection laws grows every day, and I will continue to be a leader in that fight.”
The move by MLB comes after Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, two of the state’s largest companies, spoke out against the bill following criticism for not taking a position on the legislation earlier.
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a Wednesday memo to employees. “However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
Manfred said the league will continue with its plans to celebrate the late baseball great Hank Aaron, who played more than 20 seasons with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta, at the All-Star game this summer. MLB will also move forward with plans to support local communities in Atlanta as part of the event.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” by the league’s decision, and that Georgia businesses, employees, and fans will suffer because of it.
“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. “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.”
Manfred said the league was finalizing a new host city and would release details about the new plans soon.