ATLANTA (CN) --- Major League Baseball announced Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia's controversial new voting restrictions.
In a statement announcing the decision, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said he decided “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft."
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” he said.
Manfred noted that last year, MLB became the first pro sports league to join nonpartisan voting rights advocacy group Civic Alliance.
“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,” he said. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
The Republican-controlled Georgia Senate passed SB 202 with a 34-20 vote on March 25, and GOP Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law hours later. While Kemp was signing the bill, Democratic Representative Park Cannon was arrested for standing outside the governor’s office and knocking on the door.
The law limits the locations of ballot drop boxes to early voting polling places during voting hours and enacts new ID requirements for requesting an absentee ballot. It also bans people from handing out water and snacks to voters waiting in line.
Critics of the bill say it is racially and politically motivated to disenfranchise minorities from voting after the Peach State narrowly voted for Democratic President Joe Biden and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. The Georgia chapter of the NAACP and other voting rights groups filed a lawsuit Sunday against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state election officials, asking the court to declare SB 202 as unconstitutional.
The Atlanta Braves released a statement Friday afternoon saying the team is “deeply disappointed” by MLB’s decision and “saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city.”
The Braves said they support voting rights and had hoped Atlanta could use the event “as a platform to enhance the discussion.”
“Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision,” the team said.
The Braves’ stadium Truist Park, formerly known as SunTrust Park, opened in 2017. Restaurants, bars and stores surround the ballpark in what is named The Battery.
Georgia state Representative Beth Moore, a Democrat, said the revenue losses “will strike those communities who are also most likely to be negatively impacted by the new voting law, thereby serving a double-whammy against largely low income, minority, urban and suburban households.”
Kemp took to Twitter on Thursday, the day before the announcement, to defend the law.
“The truth is that we’ve expanded early voting, secure ballot drop boxes remain available, free voter ID will speed up the mail-in ballot process, and a continuous vote tabulation will ensure every legal vote counts,” the governor said. “This bill makes our elections secure, accessible and fair.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, also tweeted Friday about MLB’s decision.
“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those elected,” she said. “Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from Georgia is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”
MLB has not announced where the All-Star Game will be held, but still plans to honor Braves legend and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who died Jan. 22. The game is scheduled for July 13.
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