MLB is pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from Truist Park and the Atlanta Braves after the Republican legislature and governor placed new restrictions on voting rights in the battleground state.
The move, as announced by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, came after consultations with the players association and plenty of public pressure from civil-rights groups. The legislation, passed after the fall election of two Democratic senators and Joe Biden carrying the state in the 2021 presidential election, would impose new voting restrictions and curtail ballot access in urban and suburban areas. Large Georgia corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola have decried the legislation, Gov. Brian Kemp, who orchestrated the new restrictions with the state legislature, criticized the decision in a statement:
“Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies. I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections.”
The Braves were not pleased with the decision, either.
The Braves statement regarding the moving of the MLB All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/0Iapm3eIre
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 2, 2021
Here is Manfred’s statement:
“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. 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.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 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 States. 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.
“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. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”
The next step will be designating a replacement. Since the game was to honor the accomplishments of Henry Aaron, a move to Milwaukee’s American Family Field would not be out of the question: Aaron played 14 seasons in Milwaukee (12 seasons with the Braves, two with the Brewers). There are five ballparks that have never hosted an All-Star Game–Tropicana Field, the new Yankee Stadium, Truist Park, Citizens Bank Park and Globe Life Field–and the Rays are the only MLB franchise to have never hosted an All-Star Game. The Phillies are set to host in 2026 and the Dodgers are set to host in 2022.
Whether the Yankees or Rangers would want to host this season is an interesting question: both venues are reportedly in line to host in 2023, 2024 and 2025, and they could do so with plenty of planning and hoopla. The Rays, on the other hand, are in a different place and could use the All-Star Game as a marketing tool to remind local fans what they would miss should the team depart for greener pastures.
This is not the first time an all-star contest has been pulled after controversial actions: the Charlotte Hornets were denied the NBA All-Star Game in 2017 after state legislators passed a controversial Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, barring individuals from using a bathroom not meant for the gender listed on their birth certificate. This led public policy into some murky and complex areas related to sexual orientation and gender identity. (The NCAA later moved March Madness games from North Carolina and the ACC moved tournaments out of the state, for the same reasons.) The act was overhauled in subsequent years.
Several team owners and front-office personnel backed up the decision. From the Miami Marlins’ Derek Jeter:
“The act of participating in our country’s election process is our civic responsibility and instrumental to our country’s foundation. We should promote increasing voter turnout as opposed to any measures that adversely impact the ability to cast a ballot. In November, the Marlins proudly set out to promote the vote with our Election Day Feed the Polls initiative, providing meals to voters as our local election officials conducted free and fair elections. We support the Commissioner’s decision to stand up for the values of our game and not hold this year’s All-Star Game in the state of Georgia.”
From Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott:
“The Orioles organization joins the City of Baltimore in support of today’s decision by Major League Baseball to relocate the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft. As the birthplace of civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, we stand united with Commissioner Manfred in denouncing this malicious legislative effort to suppress voters in Georgia and other state legislatures.
“Baseball is our national pastime and preserving the right to vote is a pillar of our American democracy. The City of Baltimore and the Birds of Baltimore applaud MLB’s patriotism in supporting voting rights, and we encourage everyone to use this moment to fight for fair elections and register eligible Americans to vote and make their voices heard.”