Major League Baseball is moving the 2021 All-Star Game and 2021 draft out of Atlanta in response to, the league 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 said in a statement. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."
Discussions of moving the gameafter Georgia recently passed a strict new voting law, which critics say is designed to disenfranchise voters of color. It requires a photo ID in order to vote via absentee ballot, which more than 1.3 million Georgia voters did during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new law limited the locations for dropboxes and the time voters have to request an absentee ballot. It also outlaws passing out food and water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line, a particularly controversial provision as there are often longer lines to vote in disproportionately Black precincts.
Manfred's decision came two days after President Biden endorsed moving the game out of Atlanta in an interview with ESPN.
"I think today's professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They're leaders," Mr. Biden said. The president has called the new Georgia law "Jim Crow on steroids."
However, some Georgia Democrats expressed disappointment in the move. The All-Star Game is one of the league's premier events and the city of Atlanta will be losing out on a considerable financial gain. Past cities have seen as much as $60 million in economic boosts, according to data from the Baseball Almanac.
"Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that MLB is relocating its All-Star game; however, I commend the players, owners and league commissioner for speaking out. I urge others in positions of leadership to do so as well," said Stacey Abrams, one of the state's most prominent Democrats and a voting rights activist.
Senator Raphael Warnock called the move "the unfortunate consequence" of the law's passage.
Georgia Republicans, meanwhile, are not backing down. In a press conference on Saturday, Governor Brian Kemp decried "cancel culture" as the root of Manfred's decision.
"Secure, accessible elections are worth the threats. They are worth the boycotts as well as the lawsuits. I want to be clear — I will not be backing down from this fight," Kemp said. "What are they going to do if the Braves get in the playoffs? Are they going to move the damn playoff game? Are they going to move it to other states with more restrictions than we have?"
The move was also criticized by former President Trump, who in a statement called on his supporters to "boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with free and fair elections."
The league has not yet announced a new host city but said the decision is in the process of being finalized. The All-Star Game is scheduled to take place on July 13 and will still pay tribute to baseball legend Hank Aaron.
Khristopher J. Brooks contributed reporting.
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