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Truist Park in Atlanta, GA

Photo by brian_esquire is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. announced on Friday that the league is moving both the 2021 All-Star Game and the MLB draft out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voter suppression law.

In a statement, Manfred said:

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.

The move comes a little more than a week after Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed the new law, which requires ID to vote by mail, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, and gives the Republican-controlled state legislature more power over how elections are administered. It's led to fears among voting rights activists that voters in Democratic strongholds in the state will see rule changes that make it harder for them to vote.

Civil rights activists in the state had been pressuring companies to take a stand against the law or face boycotts.

Multiple major companies headquartered in Georgia, like Delta Air Linesand Coca-Cola, spoke out against the law.

However, MLB's decision to move the All-Star Game and draft from the state is the biggest move to date and could cost Georgia millions in tourism revenue.

Cobb County Chair Lisa Cupid said in a video statement this week that moving the All-Star Game out of the state would cause financial damage.

"Some are asserting that they will boycott our businesses and not travel to our state," Cupid said. "This would have a negative impact to us in Cobb County, as our top industries are retail travel and tourism."

President Joe Biden had said this week he supported moving the events.

"I think today's professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly," Biden said in an interview with ESPN. "I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They're leaders."

Georgia Republicans have dug in their heels in response to the criticism, slamming companies for speaking out and even trying to retaliateagainst those companies by attempting to yank a tax break from Delta as a form of retaliation.

Kemp called Biden's support for moving the All-Star Game "ridiculous." He's also lied about what Georgia's voter suppression law does, saying it was aimed at "expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections."

Gabe Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, had slammed the MLB for contemplating moving the All-Star Game before the move was announced.

"I think it's morally reprehensible and disgusting that he's perpetuating economic blackmail over a lie," Sterling said in an interview with the right-wing outlet The Dispatch. "It's a lie. This is no different than the lie of Trump saying there was voter fraud in this state. And the people who are going to be most hurt by [a boycott] are the workers in all of these places that are going to be impacted."

Sports leagues have successfully forced Republican state legislatures into amending discriminatory laws in the past by threatening to move or moving major events.

In 2017, the NBA helped push North Carolina to amend a discriminatory anti-transgender bathroom law after it pulled its All-Star Game from the state. The NBA later reversed its decision after North Carolina Republicans amended the law.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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