I’m struggling a bit to write the intro to this one because I’m so surprised the Major League Baseball acted so swiftly and so decisively on this topic.
Following the passage of Georgia’s new voter restrictions law, which many believe is directly targeted at limiting accessibility to Black voters in the state, there have been calls for MLB to move its first All-Star Game since 2019 out of Atlanta.
Incredibly, MLB is actually doing it.
A just-released statement from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred:
“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,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a 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.”
“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.”
As we’ve seen over the past 12 months, the intersection of sports and social issues remains as strong and important as it has ever been. Moreover, when it comes to racial justice and the importance of treating Black Americans as truly equal citizens, Major League Baseball comes to the minds of many because of integration and the arrival of Jackie Robinson. The sport cannot hold Robinson up as the icon he was and then turn their backs on long-lasting dark side of the legacy his presence was meant to fight against.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say this is one of the most consequential decisions MLB has made in recent years in service of its efforts to improve the treatment of Black Americans.
I expect there will be many responses to this news from a wide cross-section of constituencies. A significant number of companies have been pushing back strongly against Georgia’s law, from Coca-Cola to Delta, so MLB is not wholly out on its own here. But this will be one of the most visible steps taken to protest the restrictive law.