It would be a tall — but not impossible — task for Major League Baseball to relocate its All-Star Game away from Georgia this year, according to experts in sports-event management. But to pull it off, league officials would have to make the decision soon, experts said.
Talk of moving the game surfaced last week after. Some view the laws as designed specifically to disenfranchise voters of color with new requirements like including a photo ID when mailing in an absentee ballot as well as when requesting a ballot. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot.
"Players are very much aware" of the new laws, MLB Players Association director Tony Clark recently told the Boston Globe. After its passage, players talked about relocating the All-Star Game, he said.
"As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue," Clark told the newspaper. "If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation."
Time is ticking
Among the four major U.S. sports leagues, MLB isn't known for taking major political stances like the National Basketball Association. Still, many of baseball's top superstars are Black or Hispanic. With the threat of relocation looming, a local county official in Atlanta pleaded with players on Tuesday to reconsider, citing the potential economic damage to Cobb County's retail, travel and tourism industries by losing annual prime-time sports event.
The All-Star Game is slated for July 13, roughly three and a half months away. That means "it would be very challenging to reschedule everything at a moment's notice," University of Florida sport management professor Kiki Kaplanidou told CBS MoneyWatch.
MLB would have to immediately break contracts it has with hotels, the ticket distributor and other venues and then start the process over again with officials in a different state, Kaplanidou said.
It can be done, but MLB would have to move quickly, said Jason Chung, sport management professor at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Chung noted how it took the NBA all of one month to move its All-Star Game away from Charlotte in 2017 after North Carolina passed a law seen as discriminatory toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"The MLB is going to have to figure out what their stakeholders want," Chung said, "and time is not really their friend in this case."
If the All-Star Game relocates, it could cost Atlanta big bucks. Cities that previously hosted the week-long event have generated at least $60 million in economic boosts since 2009, according to data from the Baseball Almanac.
MLB has projected Atlanta could generate between $37 million and $190 million from this year's game but those figures have been challenged as mere boosterism by a local economist.
What about the 2021 Masters tournament?
Aside from baseball, there are also calls for the PGA Tour to relocate its Masters tournament, which starts Monday in Augusta, Georgia.
"Professional golf should not reward Georgia's attacks on democracy and voting rights with the millions of dollars in revenue that the tournament generates and the prestige it brings to the state," the National Black Justice Coalition said in a statement. "Professional golfers should refuse to play in Georgia until the racist voter suppression law is repealed."
The PGA hasn't said whether it's considering relocating the tournament.
Kaplanidou said she doesn't see the Masters changing plans. At the most extreme, officials may cancel or delay the event, but even that seems far-fetched, she said.
"With a big loss on their hands, they may say 'hey, we're not doing it this year', but it's still highly unlikely that they're not doing it," Kaplanidou said.