On Friday, Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred ordered the sport to relocate its 2021 All-Star Game and amateur player draft out of Atlanta in protest over Georgia’s new voting restrictions.
The removal of the lucrative All-Star Game marks one of the most significant and high-profile gestures after Georgia last week strengthened identification requirements for absentee ballots, shortened early voting periods for runoffs, and made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.
“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,” Mr. Manfred said in a written statement.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
The voting law, which was endorsed by the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, faces legal challenges from civil rights groups and others who say it aims to suppress voting among black people and other racial minorities who tend to vote Democratic.
Mr. Kemp said in a written statement MLB’s leadership had “caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies” and later told a television interview the state would not bow to corporate pressure.
“They’re going to come after your ballgame. They’re going to boycott your business if you disagree with their way of life,” Mr. Kemp told Fox News. “We are not backing down.”
According to a White House official, US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has been sharply critical of the law, recently telling ESPN it was “Jim Crow on steroids,” and welcomed the decision. Jim Crow refers to racial segregation practices prevalent in the South from the late 19th century through much of the 20th century.
“He said earlier this week that if the decision was made by Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game, he would certainly support that decision – and now that MLB has made that choice, he certainly does,” the official said. Mr. Manfred said the league took the decision after consulting with clubs and current and former players. He said it was finalizing plans for a new host city. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” said Mr. Manfred, a day after the league opened its 2021 regular season.
The decision set off strong reactions from across the political spectrum.
“What a pathetic and weak decision by @MLB to give in to the Radical Left’s false attack on Georgia voting laws!” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of neighboring South Carolina wrote on Twitter. “I hope the people of Georgia remember this in 2022 when they will have a chance to check/stop the Biden agenda in the Georgia US Senate race.”
Stacey Abrams, an influential voting rights activist and fierce critic of the bill who had nevertheless cautioned against boycotts, said she was disappointed the game would be moved but “proud” of the league’s stance on voting rights. Ms. Abrams, who blamed voter suppression for her narrow loss to Mr. Kemp in the 2018 race for Georgia governor, said on Twitter that Republican leaders had “traded economic opportunity for suppression,” and she urged “events & productions to come & speak out or stay & fight.