On Friday, Major League Baseball announced it would move the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB draft out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s restrictive new electoral law signed by Governor Brian Kemp last week.
The league’s decision comes as the American company begins to take note of the Georgia bill and others who like it – and roll back the repression of voters across the country.
Since the law was passed, several companies including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Microsoft have issued statements condemning the law, making it difficult for Georgians to vote by mail, and shifting control of electoral rules to the state legislature other changes.
The law, which University of Georgia political scientist Cas Mudde described as “anti-democratic” in an interview with Vox, gives Republican lawmakers in Georgia majority control over the State Election Board and makes it illegal to stop people standing in line To give food or water to vote and sets new voter identification requirements for mail-in voting.
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explains, the combined effect of these changes is “creating barriers to voting” – and these changes are likely to affect low-income voters and minority voters the most.
“I’ve decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is to relocate this year’s All-Star game and this year’s MLB draft,” said league commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement on Friday. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports the voting rights of all Americans and opposes ballot box restrictions.”
The move isn’t unprecedented in American sport – previously both the NFL and NBA postponed major events in response to host nation bills, whether or not they passed – but the loss of the MLB All-Star game scheduled for July is the one with By far the biggest blow to Georgia after the law passed.
A new location for the MLB All-Star Game and the design were not announced until Saturday.
Republican lawmakers are deciphering the move
The league’s decision has already sparked a flurry of condemnation and support. Kemp, a Republican, accused MLB of “giving in to fear, political opportunism and liberal lies”.
The two newly minted Democratic Senators of Georgia focused their responses on the bill itself, phrasing the MLB decision as an “unfortunate consequence” of Republican electoral restrictions.
“The governor and lawmakers are deliberately making it difficult for black voters to cast their votes,” Senator Jon Ossoff said Friday. “You know it. Everyone knows, and this monstrous and immoral attack on the right to vote has also seriously endangered the economy of our state. “
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden told ESPN that he would “strongly support” the decision to postpone the Georgia All-Star Game, despite some state activists and politicians, including former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, opposite boycotts have done so.
“I respect boycotts,” Abrams said in a statement Friday, “although I don’t want families in Georgia to be hurt by lost events and jobs.” … We shouldn’t abandon victims of GOP malice and lies – we have to stand together. “
The MLB ruling also resulted in politicians on Twitter very publicly courting the now homeless All-Star game.
“Hey @MLB here in Baltimore, we strongly support voting rights, as do our beloved @orioles,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott tweeted Friday. “We’d love to host the All Star Game at Oriole Park in Camden Yards, the stadium that inspired them all.”
Some Republicans have gone beyond simple conviction to threaten retaliation against the league for pulling the All-Star game out of Georgia.
In a statement Friday, former President Donald Trump urged supporters “to boycott baseball and any corporations it woke up,” while Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican of South Carolina, said Friday that he would try to get baseball’s antitrust exemption Quit, which the country protects league from using antitrust laws to ensure fair competition.
Companies in other countries are also taking note of efforts to suppress voters
In Georgia, where SB 202 is already required by law, the wave of corporate backlash to new voter restrictions may have come too late to change the outcome (although there is precedent for states rolling back unpopular laws in response to corporate pressures ).
Elsewhere, however, particularly in Texas, companies are making their stance public before new voter restrictions are incorporated into the law. At least two Texas-based companies, American Airlines and Dell Technologies, have spoken out against a Texas bill, SB 7, that would restrict early voting and postal voting, among other things.
“To make the American stance clear, we are firmly against this bill and others who like it,” American said in a statement Thursday after the Texas Senate bill was tabled. “As a Texas-based company, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas at home and honor the sacrifices that generations of Americans have made to protect and expand the right to vote.”
According to the Texas Tribune, AT&T and Southwest Airlines, also based in Texas, reiterated their support for the right to vote on Friday, despite no mention of SB 7 by name.
While the Texas bill is being sent to the State House, it’s unclear whether that opposition will mean anything, but the response from companies in Georgia could make a difference in how lawmakers see things.
“Top Texas employers are opposed to electoral repression for good reason,” former Texas House spokesman Joe Straus tweeted Thursday. “Texas shouldn’t be going the same way Georgia is. It’s bad for business and, most importantly, bad for our citizens. “
A pushback by American companies in Georgia and Texas could also make a difference at the national level: after the 2020 presidential election, new voter suppression laws were introduced in almost every state in the country.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 47 states passed at least 361 restrictive new bills on March 24, with Texas, Georgia and Arizona leading the way in the number of bills.
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explained last week,
Not all of these bills are equally harmful. In the past, both parties benefited from mail-in voting under non-pandemic conditions. While one caveat is clearly undemocratic, it might not help Republicans too much in the medium term in 2022. The evidence for the impact of voter ID laws on voter turnout is somewhat mixed.
But the parts of Georgian law that are most likely to affect election results – the partisans’ seizure of power over the actual election administration – are far from unique.
“What we are seeing in Georgia is an American-style democratic relapse,” writes Beauchamp. “And it won’t be the last try we’ll see.”
Big business is taking note, however. In a statement posted on Friday and shared on Twitter by Judd Legum, who writes the newsletter of popular information, more than 100 companies joined a statement by the Civic Alliance in new efforts to suppress voters across the country were convicted.
“Our elections will not improve if lawmakers impose barriers that lead to longer voting times or reduce access to secure ballot boxes,” the statement said. “We urge elected leaders in every state capital and in Congress to work on the gang to ensure that every eligible American is free to simply cast his or her vote and participate fully in our democracy.”