Last week, Georgia passed into law SB 202, which includes provisions to impose new voter identification requirements for absentee voting, limit the number of drop boxes and prohibit water and snack distribution to voters at polling places. The law is considered by many to be an act of voter suppression and has been denounced as a form of “Jim Crow.”
On the same day that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill, the MLB Players Association, or MLBPA, was reportedly considering moving the MLB All-Star Game out of Georgia in light of the new legislation. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark expressed willingness to discuss the issue with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
The All-Star Game, which is scheduled to take place July 13, was awarded to the Atlanta Braves and Truist Park to host back in May of 2019. Atlanta would be hosting the game for the first time since 2000.
The law prompting the discussion is, unfortunately, not as controversial as it is outright harmful to our democracy. By adding more barriers to vote and making existing barriers even larger, SB 202 suppresses voices and threatens our process of government by making it more difficult to keep representatives accountable.
Key takeaways from the legislation include that the law makes it a misdemeanor to hand out “any money or gift, including but not limited to, food and drink,” to voters in line at the polls, requires absentee voters to have a photo ID and empowers state officials to seize control of election boards and potentially disqualify voters.
SB 202’s passage felt cruel and dangerous, but the MLBPA’s immediate reaction to the law’s passage was more than welcome. While such action is still in discussion and a decision remains to be finalized by the MLB, potential pressure from the player’s association may prompt a location change for the All-Star Game.
As the MLB considers the potential logistical, economic, ethical and political hurdles associated with maintaining the site and moving it, various stakeholders have weighed in. Eager for the economic revenue that a high-profile game would bring, Cobb County officials pleaded for the MLB to keep the game in Atlanta. President Joe Biden, however, said he supported the league moving the event.
At the end of the day, a move from Atlanta is not an action that only affects the lawmakers that created SB 202. Moving the All-Star Game will certainly affect local small and large businesses, individuals and the greater community. In her attempt to urge the game to stay in Atlanta, Cobb County Chairwoman Lisa Cupid highlighted the distinction between local elected officials and those at the state level, acknowledging that Atlanta’s “state legislators have not played fair.”
However, a move would certainly make a meaningful statement, especially at a time when lawmakers in more than 24 states are attempting similar attacks on the right to vote. In changing the All-Star Game’s location to another state, the MLB would be using its platform and power to assert its support for fair representation and the right to vote. The MLB alone may not be able to sway state legislatures from enacting similar voter suppression legislation, but action by the league may still have a powerful impact, adding an easily observable, financial consequence to the existing grave damages to people’s right to vote.
And if the MLB is worried about being cast into a spotlight all alone, it need not. The CEOs of Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and other major corporations have already condemned the law — the MLB’s action would not be entirely unique.
In fact, several have urged the MLB to follow the precedent set by the NBA, which moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte after North Carolina enacted HB2, which removed legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community.
“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” reads the statement put out by the NBA.
In a similar vein, the climate created by Georgia’s SB 202 is not one that should be normalized, and MLB inaction would serve as an acceptance of such harmful legislation. Although Atlanta may pay the price for state legislators’ actions, moving the game out of Georgia is essential for the MLB, its players and individuals’ right to vote.