On Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred finalized a decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta’s Truist Park to Coors Field in Denver. The decision came after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial bill that added heavy restrictions on voting and elections, such as a ban on giving food and water to voters in line. Backlash from politicians and corporations alike has been widespread, with critics citing the new laws as an example of voter suppression targeting low-income Georgia residents of color in already underserved areas.
The MLB has already joined large Georgia-based entities such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot in voicing opposition to the new law, but the league has now taken tangible action to demonstrate their displeasure. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed support for the MLB’s move on Twitter, saying that the relocation of the All-Star Game “is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”
Local Atlanta businesses will certainly feel the loss of the All-Star Game, as the 2019 MLB All-Star Game generated over $60 million in revenue for the city of Cleveland. Though the MLB has affirmed its intent to honor commitments made to the Atlanta community, in practice, it seems as though the economic loss is inevitable, with Cobb Travel and Tourism reporting that the area could stand to lose nearly $100 million in revenue as a result of the relocation.
Kemp said of the move, “This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from [President] Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections. I will not back down.” The Atlanta Braves also released an official statement weighing in on the MLB’s decision, stating that the league’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game had left them “deeply disappointed.” The Braves organization pledged their continued commitment to supporting equal voting opportunities but felt that the relocation of the All-Star Game unnecessarily punished Atlanta businesses and workers.
Even before this controversy, the MLB has taken an active role in supporting voting rights issues. In September 2020, the MLB joined the Civic Alliance, a non-partisan collective of nearly 1,200 businesses, including notable corporations such as Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks, committed to increasing voter turnout throughout the United States. The MLB has recently used the influence of many of their franchises in order to support increasing voter turnout nationwide. For example, they have established baseball parks as voting centers or ballot drop locations, and have used social media to boost the spread of information regarding county voter registration procedures. Though the relocation of the All-Star Game will come at the expense of a significant amount of revenue for Atlanta businesses, the MLB’s message to Georgia is clear: voter suppression is unacceptable.