Major League Baseball (MLB) announced it will relocate this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft due to the state’s new restrictive voting rule, prompting Georgia’s Republican governor to slam the league.
The law, which was signed late last month, overwhelmingly disenfranchises Black voters in Georgia, a state with a long history of racial discrimination, and has attracted strong condemnation from local communities, civil rights groups, politicians, and businesses.
“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,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement on Friday. The events had been scheduled to take place in Atlanta.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp retaliated on Saturday, saying the state will battle the bill in court. The Republican leader accused the MLB of caving in to “liberal activists’ paranoia and lies.” niques
“I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight. We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced,” said Kemp, who also criticised US corporations who have backed the MLB’s move.
Last week, Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines joined a group of US companies in a lawsuit challenging the new voting regulations, which include tougher ID criteria, less ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food or water to voters in line, among other things.
Georgia civil rights activists have filed a civil lawsuit challenging the statute, while US Vice President Joe Biden has called the restrictions “an atrocity” and “a brazen assault on the Constitution and good conscience.”
Other US states, such as Texas and Florida, are debating similar voting laws, according to Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC. The difference, he explained, is that businesses have already spoken out against the proposed legislation.
“This is something that is having a major national impact, that doesn’t just concern Georgia it appears,” Hanna said.
The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin wrote before the MLB decision that “there is increasing awareness that Georgia has become ground zero in the voter suppression fight” in the United States.
“If the national pastime is holding its premier event in Georgia, it gives a patina of Americana to a state that is codifying one of the more obscene parts of this country’s history,” he said.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) relocated its 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina due to anti-transgender legislation, and the National Football League (NFL) moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona because it did not accept Martin Luther King’s birthday, according to Zirin.
Stacey Abrams, who is credited with helping Democrats secure two US Senate seats in Georgia this year, expressed disappointment that the All-Star Game will be moved from Atlanta, but praised the MLB for speaking out.
Republicans who passed the bill, according to Abrams, “did so recognizing the economic threats to our state” and “prioritized making it more difficult for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians.”
The MLB teams Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles all applauded the league’s decision. The Orioles issued a statement saying, “We stand together with Commissioner Manfred in condemning this cynical legislative attempt to intimidate voters in Georgia and other state legislatures.”
After former President Donald Trump falsely claimed that the November 2020 presidential election was stolen from him due to widespread fraud, Biden signed an order last month to promote US voter participation despite a slew of Republican legislative attempts to curb voting.
As of March 24, “legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which monitors voting legislation around the country.
According to the center, this was a 43 percent improvement from the previous count on February 19.