CINCINNATI — In the most decisive response yet by a major professional sport to Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws, America’s pastime will relocate its All-Star Game from the Atlanta area, Major League Baseball’s commissioner announced Friday.
“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,” commissioner Rob Manfred stated in a release sent to the media confirming the decision. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
The Braves released a statement on how they were “deeply disappointed” that their new ballpark, Truist Field, would not hold the 91st All-Star Game.
“This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation,” the team said in a statement posted on Twitter, “and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. 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. Our city has always been known as a united in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.”
President Biden said this past week he “strongly support” baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game, saying about the sport: “People look to them, they’re leaders.”
A new host city was not announced.
As of Friday afternoon, the Cardinals had not been approached about St. Louis being a possible site for the Midsummer Classic or even explored the idea of doing so. When asked about that being an option, an official said it was not likely, using the words "pretty slim." The Cardinals hosted the 2009 All-Star Game as a showcase for Busch Stadium III and have the facilities required for the event.
The Dodgers were supposed to host the 2020 All-Star Game in Los Angeles, but that event was cancelled due to the pandemic and baseball’s shortened season. Dodger Stadium was awarded the 2022 All-Star Game.
The 2021 All-Star Game was set for July 13.
Major League Baseball’s relocation of a jewel event as a direct result of Georgia’s new voting laws joins critical comments from other businesses, including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola. At issue, is the law’s provisions that critics believe make it more difficult to vote and could disproportionally limit access in minority communities. The law ranges from stricter ID requirements to fewer ballot boxes. Proponents of the new policies, which do narrow the window for absentee voting and giving the state legislature greater oversight, state the law adds layers of protection against voter fraud and illegal voter influence.
Georgia’s Republican governor signed the policies into law after the state legislature passed in a vote that was straight along party lines.
Building on his comments about baseball’s opportunity to join the chorus critical of the policies, Biden, in an interview with ESPN, called the law “Jim Crow on steroids.”
While it is a significant stride for Major League Baseball, its move is not the first time one of the country’s largest professional sports leagues has removed a signature event from a state due to a political law or policy. In 1991, the NFL voted to pull the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona when the state did not recognize Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, and in 2017 the NBA shifted its All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of a law passed the previous March that reduced anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.
Major League Baseball’s decision comes after the players’ union chief Tony Clark said recently that his constituents were “aware” of the new voting law and eager to have a conversation with the commissioner about a possible move of the All-Star Game. The commissioner’s office began canvassing teams and players in the past week to gather feedback and opinion before announcing a move.
Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright, a Georgia native and former All-Star Game starter, said Thursday he was not approached about an official for his view.
Before the Cardinals’ opening day win against Cincinnati, Wainwright answered a question about the possible removal of the All-Star Game from Atlanta and explained how he hoped that an All-Star Game could be a unifying event. He supported players who use their platform to champion social causes and personal charities and described an additional role baseball could offer. He said players “need to be entertainers” who can provide a “reprieve” for a country raw from political friction.
In his statement, Manfred said he spoke with teams, current and former players, the players’ union, and members of The Players Alliance.
The buildup to the All-Star Game would have featured questions to players on whether they intended to attend.
Manfred added that the events planned to honor Hank Aaron, who died earlier this year, will continue during the All-Star week, and that any investments Major League Baseball planned for the local communities in and around Atlanta as part of the All-Star festivities would remain in place for this summer and beyond.
“We proudly used our platform (in 2020) to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process,” Manfred said in the release. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”