Major League Baseball will move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recent passage of a law that restricts voting access, which critics say will disproportionately affect African-American citizens of the state.
Baseball will also move this year’s draft from Georgia. No new site for either event was announced in a statement released by Major League Baseball on Friday.
“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,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in the statement. “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.”
Manfred emphasized MLB’s support for voting rights. “In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United State,” Manfred’s statement said. “We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support. ”
In late March, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law legislation that requires voters to provide a driver’s license or state ID card number to request and submit absentee ballots. The law also limits the use of ballot drop boxes by requiring they be located in early-voting locations and accessible only when the polls are open.
The Braves expressed disappointment with the announcement. “The Braves organization will continues to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hope our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion,” the team said in a statement. “Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”
The Georgia law has been roundly criticized by both residents of the state and by national figures, including President Joe Biden. “He said earlier this week that if the decision was made by Major League Baseball to move the All-Star game, he would certainly support that decision,” the White House said of the president in a statement, adding “and now that MLB has made that choice, he certainly does.”
Former President Donald Trump objected. “Boycott baseball and all the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair elections,” Trump said in a statement, which also claimed baseball was “afraid of Radical Left Democrats” by pulling the game and the draft from Atlanta.
This isn’t the first time a state’s legislative actions have cost it the chance to host a major sporting event. After North Carolina passed a 2016 law diminishing legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, while the NCAA imposed a moratorium on holding postseason events in the state until the legislation was repealed in March 2017.
Nor is it the first time recent Georgia politics have created a sports controversy. Earlier this year, former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler sold her stake in the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream after she drew the ire of her team’s players, in part for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
The game planned to honor legendary Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron, who died in January.
“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities. In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward,” Manfred’s statement concluded. “We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”
(This story has been updated a statement by former President Trump in the eight paragraph and details of the NBA’s North Carolina boycott in the ninth paragraph.)