Major League Baseball pulled its summer All-Star Game out of suburban Atlanta on Friday, the first major rebuke to the new Republican-backed elections law in Georgia that particularly curtails voting access in the state’s urban areas.
The decision by the baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, came after days of pressure from civil rights groups and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The action is likely to put additional pressure on other leading organizations and corporations to consider pulling business out of Georgia, a move that both Republicans and Democrats in the state oppose despite fiercely disagreeing about the new voting law.
Baseball’s decision comes as other states are moving closer to passing new laws that would further restrict voting in their states. In Texas, home to two professional baseball teams, the State Senate passed a law this week that would limit early voting hours, ban drive through voting, add new restrictions to absentee voting and make it illegal for local election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to voters, even if they qualify. In Florida, also home to two major league teams, the State Legislature has introduced a bill that would severely limit drop boxes.
Earlier this week, President Biden joined a growing call for the relocation of the game because of the new voting law that he and civil rights groups predicted will have an outsize impact on people of color. The Georgia law introduced stricter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited the use of drop boxes and expanded the Legislature’s power over elections.
In a statement, Mr. Manfred said that after conversations with teams, players, former stars and players union officials he had concluded that “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”
Baseball said it was finalizing details about new locations for this year’s All-Star Game and the draft. The league faced the unsettling prospect of marking the upcoming annual April 15 celebration of Jackie Robinson becoming the first modern Black player in the major leagues, and an All-Star week dedicated to former Atlanta Braves great Henry Aaron, while the state’s voting law widely seen as targeting Black voters loomed.
Georgia Democrats had not called for a boycott of the game but were building pressure on Major League Baseball and other Georgia-based corporations to oppose the state’s new voting law.
Stacey Abrams, the titular leader of the state’s Democrats, said Friday that she is “disappointed” baseball pulled its All-Star Game but said she is “proud of their stance on voting rights.” Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat elected in a January runoff election, said Thursday there should be no boycott of Georgia or Georgia companies, but that companies upset about the law should “stop any financial support to Georgia’s Republican Party.”
Many Democratic members of the state legislature have been similarly against boycotts in Georgia. “Stop with this boycott nonsense,” wrote Jen Jordan, a Democratic senator from outside of Atlanta, on Twitter last week. “I would rather people and companies use their economic power in this state for change rather than not come here at all.”
At least one Georgia Democrat, Representative Teri Anulewicz, whose Cobb County district includes the Braves’ stadium, expressed disappointment that it would no longer host the game.
Georgia Republicans have scoffed at the prospect of boycotts. After Coca-Cola objected to the law, David Ralston, the State House Speaker, told reporters he drank a Pepsi, an act of heresy in Coke-dominated Atlanta.
Mr. Biden, in a television interview with ESPN ahead of M.L.B.’s opening day on Thursday, said he would “strongly support” moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. He called Georgia’s law and similarly restrictive voting bills that Republicans are advancing in almost every state “Jim Crow on steroids.”
While the National Basketball Association has often been on the forefront of pushing progressive politics — it moved its own all-star game out of Charlotte after North Carolina Republicans enacted a “bathroom ban” on transgender people — baseball has rarely made a political statement as significant as moving its midsummer classic out of Georgia.
In an interview earlier this week with The Associated Press, Mr. Manfred, the baseball commissioner had hinted that he was strongly considering moving the game but declined to make any firm commitments.
“I am talking to various constituencies within the game and I’m just not going beyond that in terms of what I would consider or not consider,” Mr. Manfred said at the time.
Tony Clark, the executive director of the M.L.B. Players Association, has said the union was willing to discuss pulling the game, scheduled for July 13 at Truist Park in suburban Cobb County, the home of the Atlanta Braves.
James Wagner, Kevin Draper and Joe Drape contributed reporting.
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