Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark said his union members are willing to consider moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta after legislation that significantly restricts voting rights was signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday.
"Players are very much aware," Clark told Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe. "As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation."
After voters in Georgia elected two Democratic senators in January and voted for President Joe Biden in November's general election, state legislators wrote and quickly passed SB 202, which allows the Republican-controlled legislature to take over the process of disqualifying ballots, imposes strict voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, decreases the number of ballot drop-off boxes and makes it a crime to hand out food or water to those waiting in line to vote, among other restrictions.
Per CNN's Kelly Mena, Fredreka Schouten, Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland, Kemp said the law would address "alarming issues" with the 2020 election, though election officials from across the U.S. told Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times there was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Pro sports leagues moving marquee events from previously-named host cities as a result of local legislation is not uncommon. The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans and the NCAA banned championship events in the state following the passage of a law—later repealed—that targeted the transgender community.
The LeBron James-led voting right organization More Than A Vote has been fiercely critical of Georgia's new legislation, calling the bill voter suppression while prominent Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams referred to the law as "nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0".
More Than A Vote also counts numerous MLB alumni and active players among its members, including Tim Anderson, Jack Flaherty, Jason Heyward, Marcus Stroman and CC Sabathia, each of whom is also involved in The Players Alliance—a non-profit focused on using baseball to elevate racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he would reconsider whether or not to manage the National League team in the All-Star Game if MLB decides to keep the game in Georgia.
“If it gets to that point it’ll certainly be a decision I’ll have to make personally," Roberts told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. “When you’re trying to restrict African-American votes—American citizens—that’s alarming to me to hear."
If the MLB All-Star game continues as scheduled, it'll be the third time Atlanta has hosted the event (1972, 2000) and the first time at the recently constructed Truist Park.
Stephen Deere of the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted a memo from Cobb County Chief Financial Officer William Volckmann found the MLB All-Star Game could have an economic impact on the city and state ranging from $37 million to $190 million—a figure that has been disputed by experts—with many lodging accommodations already fully booked for the week of the game.
"Given this will be the first national and international sporting event open to the public post-COVID," Volckmann wrote, "and as more individuals will be vaccinated, we anticipate this event to have an enormous sociological and economic impact to the County."