A group of conservative business owners on Monday filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) over the decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Georgia because of the state's controversial new voting law. Job Creators Network (JCN) is seeking the return of the game to Atlanta, $100 million in damages and a punitive award of up to $1 billion.
The JCN said that the league "decided to punish the people and small businesses of Atlanta purposefully and maliciously" by moving the game, rather than appealing to state lawmakers.
Among the claims leveled against the defendants in the 21-page lawsuit is that they violated a 150-year-old civil rights law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which is "intended to protect against conspiracies resulting in damages to another in his person or property." The lawsuit also accuses MLB of violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The lawsuit also claims the withdrawal of the All-Star game from Truist Park forced the JCN to pay for "signs in New York's Times Square and advertising in The New York Times" criticizing the league and to "divert personnel from its fundraising efforts resulting in lower receipts" and that, "together, these costs amount to over $1.6 million."
The lawsuit was filed in New York City by attorney Howard Kleinhendler, who was also involved in severalseeking to overturn the results of the .
The JCN, headquartered in Addison, Texas, describes itself as a "nonpartisan organization founded by entrepreneurs like The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus who believe that many government policies are getting in the way of the economic freedom that helped make this country prosperous." Marcus, who retired in 2002, is a .
"MLB robbed the small businesses of Atlanta – many of them minority-owned – of $100 million, we want the game back where it belongs," Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, said in a statement. "This was a knee-jerk, hypocritical and illegal reaction to misinformation about Georgia's new voting law which includes Voter-ID."
The Republican-backed bill, signed into law by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp at the end of March, puts into effect new restrictions on absentee voting, expands early voting opportunities, introduces stricter ID requirements for both in-person and mail-in voting and, contentiously, bans food and drinks from being distributed to voters standing in line.
Almost immediately, major corporations with headquarters in Georgia, including Delta and Coca-Cola, spoke out in opposition to the bill. Actor Will Smith announced he was moving production of a film shoot out of the state, while other politicians and influential figures criticized the law.
MLB announced it was pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in early April. At the time, Commissioner Rob Manfred had said, "the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft."
The All-Star Game is set to be played in Denver, Colorado, on July 13.