MLB will move the 2021 All-Star Game and 2021 draft out of Atlanta in response to a new voting law in Georgia.
"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."
Critics of the law, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, have said it restricts access to the ballot box, particularly for Black voters and other voters of color.
Manfred said that they spoke with clubs, former and current players, The Players Association and The Players Alliance, among others, to hear their views on the matter. He decided the move would be "the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport."
ESPN's Howard Bryant reported that MLB/MLBPA sources told him that the league's decision to move the All-Star Game was due to "the result of corporate sponsor pressure" and not the "result of a player-threatened boycott."
Players reportedly did not vote on the issue.
He also reported that The Players Alliance told the MLBPA that they would play as normal, no matter if the game was in Atlanta or not.
The new host city and additional details have not been provided at this time.
MLB's decision comes after President Joe Biden said he would "strongly support" moving the game due to the law. He openly criticized the new law, comparing it to the Jim Crow era.
"Look at what's happened across the board. The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it's just not right," Biden said to ESPN's Sage Steele in an interview Wednesday. "This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they're doing in Georgia and 40 other states."
Gov. Kemp laid into President Biden a day later, saying that the push to move the All-Star Game is "ridiculous."
“When the president of the United States says something, you know a lot of people pay attention. But what Joe Biden needs to do is look at the side-by-side of Georgia and Delaware,” Kemp said in a Fox News interview Thursday. "He’s focused on trying to get Major League Baseball to pull the game out of Georgia, which is ridiculous.”
The newly passed law creates sweeping changes to the voting system within the state, making absentee voting more difficult and creating restriction and complications in wake of voter fraud accusations during the 2020 election cycle. The Republican-led legislature passed and signed the 98-page bill following the first Democratic presidential and Senate elections in the state in a generation.
Some of the most significant changes include less time to request absentee ballots (cutting the time by more than half) and strict new voter ID requirements for absentee voting (must provide the number from a driver’s license or an equivalent state-issued identification). Drop boxes will barely exist, and it will be illegal for elected officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters.
Additionally, those who offer food or water to voters in line will risk misdemeanor charges, and it'll be more difficult to extend voting hours if problems arise. These are just a few of the 16 key provisions in the new law.
The Players Alliance released a statement Friday saying that they "stand united in support" of MLB's move.
"We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition of the recent Georgia legislation that not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws based largely on widespread falsehoods and disinformation."
The Braves released a statement shortly after the announcement, saying they are "deeply disappointed" by the decision. They added that it was not "our decision, nor our recommendation" to move the All-Star Game.
"The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion."
Derek Jeter, CEO of the Marlins, tweeted a statement from the team account on Friday evening in support of the commissioner's decision.
"The act of participating in our country's election process is our civic responsibility and instrumental to our country's foundation. We should promote increasing voter turnout as opposed to any measures that adversely impact the ability to cast a ballot. In November, the Marlins proudly set out to promote the vote with our Election Day Feed the Polls initiative, providing meals to voters as our local election officials conducted free and fair elections. We support the Commissioner's decision to stand up for the values of our game and not hold this year's All-Star Game in the state of Georgia."
While the MLB is the first professional league to move their activities in response to the new law, they're not the only ones who faced this decision. The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is calling for the PGA Tour and The Masters to move the major championship out of Georgia in response to the recent passing of a controversial voting law too.
NBJC executive director David J. Johns told Golfweek that the bill, SB 202 will "return Black and poor and already disenfranchised voters in Georgia to second class citizens" and said that he hopes action can be taken to relocate The Masters, which begins April 8 in Augusta.
Georgia House of Representative Stacey Abrams posted in a statement on Twitter that "Republicans who passed and defended Senate Bill 2012 did so knowing the economic risks to our state."
"They prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over economic well-being of all Georgians," Abrams said. "Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star game; however; I commend the players, owners and League Commissioner for speaking out."
Kemp posted a lengthy Twitter thread in response to the All-Star Game news, stating that MLB "caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies."
"Georgians—and all Americans—should fully understand what the MLB's knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter."
The governor proceeded to call out Abrams and President Biden, stating that this is a result of their "repeated lies" and that the bill "expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections."
He added that when he spoke to Braves leadership earlier on Friday, they "do not support the MLB's decision."
Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock released a statement on Friday evening and said that he "respect(s) the decision of the players to speak out against this unjust law."
"It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community."
This is a breaking news story. It will be updated.