Should the MLB have moved the All-Star game out of Atlanta because the new Georgia voting law appears to disproportionately impact people of color? I say yes! Definitely, yes.
The All-star game was scheduled to be played on July 13, 2021 at Trust Park. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement to move the game as other states like Florida and Texas also move towards passing legislation that restricts voting. Major League Baseball is sending a message and I am all for it.
Civil Rights groups lobbied the MLB to take a stand when Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp signed into law this new bill. Georgia, which elected 2 democratic Senators in the 2020 election, has a mostly Republican legislature.
The last election brought out huge numbers of black and brown voters that had never voted before.
In an effort to subvert the black vote going forward they passed a bill that adds new ID requirements to vote by absentee ballot, limits the number of drop boxes and unbelievably makes it a misdemeanor for groups to offer food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the law gives the legislature more power over voting.
Democrats and civil rights groups and anyone with eyes sees this for what it is…voter suppression. President Biden agreed.
There is no doubt that The MLBs actions are not without the risk of alienating some fans and losing some sponsors. Last year the basketball and football leagues supported the Black Lives Matter Movement but the fan base of baseball is less diverse than the NFL and NBA.
Also, a majority of MLB players are white and conservative. Only 8% are black and many of the Latinos who play come from countries other than the US. Yet despite these issues, Manford’s decision to relocate the All-Star game is the strongest step yet taken by any major league institution.
And that in part is why I find their actions so important. Baseball discriminated against people of color and was not fully integrated until the late 1950s. Yet some of the most loved and greatest players in baseball have been black.
In deciding to move the game out of Atlanta, Manford acknowledged and embraced the idea that equality means equal access for all. Equal access to play the game and equal access for all to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
He stated that: “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. Fair access to voting continues to have our unwavering support.”
Notably, Hank Aaron, one of the greatest baseball players of all time played for the Atlanta braves. He was black and broke many racial barriers in baseball.
How could the All-Star game and the baseball draft celebrate Aaron on the one hand and play in a state that passed a bill that President Biden called “Jim Crow on Steroids”?
I have played baseball most of my life. I am black and I am proud that the MLB took a stand in recognizing that equal justice means justice for all. I feel for the city of Atlanta and their residents as they themselves had nothing to do with the passage of the Georgia bill.
They in many ways are victims in this. But with Coca-Cola and other companies supporting MLB and denouncing Kemp, we can only hope that we can move forward instead of backward.