ATLANTA — The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will no longer be held in Georgia this year following a decision by the League's commissioner.
Commissioner of Baseball Robert Manfred Jr. announced on Friday that the decision comes after extensive discussions with clubs, players, the Players Association, and others regarding voting rights and recent developments in Georgia.
"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.
Georgia has come under pressure following the passage of a law that critics have said will disenfranchise many of the state's voters. The Election Integrity Act of 2021 requires an ID number, like a driver’s license, to apply for an absentee ballot and cuts off absentee ballot applications 11 days before an election. It also limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes; allows the state to take control of what it calls “underperforming” local election systems; and disallows volunteers from giving away food and drink to voters waiting in lines.
The push for the list of changes to the state's voting system follows a contentious election battle that was based on unfounded claims by former President Donald Trump of widespread election fraud in the state.
Even with various recounts and a hand audit of the state's votes, few cases of fraud or improper voting were found - and far below the amount needed to overturn the presidential election or Joe Biden's historic electoral victory in Georgia. Biden became the first Democrat in decades to carry Georgia.
The law is already facing legal challenges and gaining national attention as groups have called for a boycott of the state in protest.
However, proponents of the bill, including Governor Brian Kemp, suggest that the bill actually expands voting options in some ways.
In an interview with 11Alive on Wednesday, Kemp went over some of the provisions in the new law. One example he gave is that the measure would require all counties to have drop boxes that voters can use for absentee ballots. He said last year was the first time counties used them.
"It requires counties that didn’t have them the last election to have them, which didn’t happen before," Kemp explained. "Also, it's going to speed up the process from an election officials' standpoint. It’s going to make it easier on them to count the absentees using the voter ID instead of the arbitrary signature match, which is a very cumbersome process. So, I would urge people to really understand what’s in the bill and not listen to the rhetoric out there."
Still, the decision on Friday suggests that some major national organizations are unhappy with the bill and its impact on the state's voters.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred stated.
While having the major game moved from Georgia will likely have a significant financial impact, Manfred said that plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during the season's All-Star festivities and the MLB's planned investments in local communities in Atlanta will move forward.
Details on the new host city for the All-Star game have not yet been released but are expected to be announced soon.
Following the announcement, the Atlanta Braves released a statement on the decision, adding that the organization is "deeply disappointed" with the MLB's course of action.
"This was neither our decision nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city," the statement read. "The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community."
The Braves' statement goes on to say that businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia will be hurt by the decision to move the game.