Moving All-Star Game to fight Georgia voting law would mean putting people’s rights ahead of MLB’s profits

The Georgia state legislature yesterday passed SB 202, the voting law that is probably best known as “You can now be arrested in the state of Georgia for giving food or water to people waiting on line to vote.” The law contains a ton of other provisions as well, though, like requiring an ID (rather than just a signature) when voting absentee, limiting the number of drop boxes for placing ballots in, and banning the use of mobile voting sites, among other things. It’s all a pretty transparent move by the Republican-led legislature to make it harder for people to vote who might vote against them, which mostly means African Americans who are more likely thanks to geography or income to be hampered by the new restrictions: The no-food-or-water rule, for example, was apparently inspired by a single white woman with a gun who was outraged that get-out-the-vote groups had been giving free pizza to people who were waiting on line to cast their ballots.

The new law is so restrictive, in fact, and so reminiscent of blatant Jim Crow–era attempts to disenfranchise Black people, that it’s drawn the attention of some in the sports world, who have suggested a boycott of the state along the lines of the actions taken after North Carolina passed its anti-transgender “bathroom law” in 2016 — actions that resulted in that law’s partial repeal one year later, and its eventual complete expiration at the end of 2020. MLB players association president Tony Clark said last week that baseball players were “very much aware” of the Georgia bill and that if there were a chance to discuss moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, he would “look forward to having that conversation.” And yesterday, an even more prominent president chimed in on behalf of that idea:

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would strongly support Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta after Georgia enacted new voting restrictions that disproportionately target Black residents.

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that,” Biden said in an interview with EPSN SportsCenter host Sage Steele. “People look to them. They’re leaders.”

Obviously, Biden and other Democrats have a selfish reason to be promoting voting rights in this case: The people being disenfranchised are more likely to vote Democratic, which is the whole point of Republican legislators passing the law in the first place. (I mean, many of them probably also passed it because they just don’t like the idea of Black people deciding who runs their state, but then we’re getting into serious chicken-and-egg territory about the reasons why someone in Georgia would choose to become a Republican legislator.) But something can be in your self-interest and also the right thing to do, and … sorry, what were we talking about? Right, the All-Star Game!

It’s important to remember that MLB did not decide to hold its 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta because they felt the city deserved it or were under the delusion that Georgia would be a pleasant place to spend time in July. They did it because — here, let’s explain by way of a list of the last 10 All-Star Game hosts:

2011: Phoenix
2012: Kansas City
2013: New York City
2014: Minneapolis
2015: Cincinnati
2016: San Diego
2017: Miami
2018: Washington
2019: Cleveland
2021: Atlanta

The common theme here is that the stadiums involved were new — or, in the cases of Kansas City and Cleveland, newly renovated. MLB has long used the All-Star Game as a reward for cities that have coughed up money for new or renovated ballparks; the last time it held the game at a stadium that wasn’t at least freshly refurbished was Yankee Stadium in 2008, and that was meant as a sendoff in advance of the Yankees’ new extremely-publicly-funded stadium opening the following year; before that, you have to go back to Fenway Park in 1999 to find an All-Star Game that wasn’t handed out as a prize for Most Willing To Subsidize League Profits With Public Money.

Moving this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta would no doubt be a logistical pain, though it isn’t all that much shorter notice (four months vs. seven) than the NBA had when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina after passage of the anti-trans bill. As we were just discussing here last week, boycotts are strategies, not moral imperatives, and voting rights advocates in Georgia are still split on whether a North Carolina–style boycott is the best way to respond to SB 202. But if pressure builds to pull the game from Atlanta — say, maybe around Jackie Robinson Day, which is just two weeks from today — and MLB owners start to push back on it, that’ll likely less be about having to print up new merchandise or even the personal feelings of the almost uniformly white men who run the league, and more about interfering with sports owners’ underlying business plan of using carrots and sticks to maximize their profits.

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40 comments on “Moving All-Star Game to fight Georgia voting law would mean putting people’s rights ahead of MLB’s profits

  1. If moving the ASG helps get the law changed, then mission accomplished. But as far as economic impact goes, would moving the ASG make a difference one way or another to Cobb County? I.e., is this another Big Sporting Event that doesn’t bring in as much money as is touted by officials?

    1. It wouldn’t have a huge economic impact, no. But it would shame Georgia officials to have to explain to their friends that they can’t go to the All-Star Game this year because all the players decided it should wait until the state rejoins the 21st century.

      This may sound like a silly incentive, but it’s worked in the past. I remember many years ago talking to someone with an insider’s view of the fight against apartheid, who said a major reason white South Africans came around was that they were sick of feeling like pariahs when their rugby teams weren’t allowed to play in the Olympics.

      1. Absolutely true. South African citizens and their govt were willing to put up with all kinds of restrictions. However, when the cricket, rugby and motor racing events were sanctioned or banned outright, things started moving.

        I suspect that was the final straw rather than the end in itself (IE: apartheid might have survived an early sporting ban if other sanctions hadn’t yet taken hold), but it is hard to argue that it didn’t help significanatly bring the system down.

  2. What is wrong with law? Come on, Neil, explain why it is bad. Use the law itself, not stuff you heard or read about it.

    The prohibitions Neil complains about are actually found in another state. I think it is the state he lives in, actually. New York only allows refreshments for voters if they are worth less than $1 and the provider/supplier is not identified. The point of the law is to prevent incentives to show up at polls. New York also prohibits electioneering within a 100ft radius of polling places. No signs, buttons, or anything. violations are a misdemeanor. Start protesting New York law, Neil. Show that you are a man of principles instead of a fool. Or criticize New Jersey for only offering 9 days of early voting compared to the 17 in “Jim Crow” Georgia.

    This “fake news” nonsense has to stop. It is perfectly acceptable to dislike legislation, but the non-scumbag does it based on facts and reason. Neil mentions anti-trans bills and boycotts (which he agrees with), but nothing about New York’s restrictions on BDS campaigns against Israel. Should New York also be boycotted? Why does New York get favorable treatment when states Neil dislikes get unfavorable treatment?

    1. And this is why sports should stay out of politics. Law is very complicated. I get that this Georgia thing is big right now because of misinformation, spread by liars like Neil DeMause. They see it necessary to speak up. But this is really bad for society. Truth and logic need to win out.

      I appreciate most of what Neil does, but he is acting very poorly here. He is amplifying untruth and misunderstanding.

      1. Thanks for the misinformation and personal attacks, Disgusted! This is a helpful reminder that if anyone calls another commenter a “liar” (not me, I don’t count), their comment will be banned, and repeat offenders will be sent to the penalty box.

        1. Neil, your entire article is a lie. You are a piece of human filth for spreading misinformation, and trying to divide this nation even more.

    2. ” The point of the law is to prevent incentives to show up at polls.”

      No it is not. The point of this law is to provide significant disincentives to specific groups of people who wish to vote.

      Most people who are against things like voter ID laws aren’t in favour of people voting illegally. The problem is that voter ID laws never/rarely seem to contain a provision that requires each state to provide a state issued photo ID, free of charge, to all citizens over the age of 18.

      Why not?

      1. Define never/rarely when this law provides free ID. Other laws are not relevant to this particular situation anyway. Laws in Montana or Oregon have nothing to do with laws in Georgia.

        Have you read the law? Yes or no?

        The issue here is completely independent of the law anyway. Neil is one of the few people who will call out bogus “studies” and bad math regarding the benefits of sports subsidies. He criticizes “journalists” who put out articles that are little more than press releases for teams and their owners. It is great work that deserves to spread far more widely than it is. Yet here he is more than content to mislead and misinform people because he agrees with the message. It is not what the law is or what it says. What it represents or means to him is more important. Bad when others do it, but NdM is special so it is okay.

        1. Since concern trolling is the order of the day, let me put it this way: If you want to be taken seriously, you’re really going to need to provide some citation for where I’ve been “misleading.” I included links to all my sources; what specifically are you alleging that I said that is not true, and what’s your evidence for that?

          1. You didn’t read the law did you? Just went with what the left and the lying guy in the White House said uh? Gee whiz

        2. And as you claim to have read the whole law, you can start by pointing to which line “provides free ID”:

          https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/georgia-sb-202/8f7976cadb0bcb56/full.pdf

          1. No free ID to vote. You are right.

            “The State of Georgia offers a free ID Card. An ID Card can be issued at any county registrar’s office free of charge.”

            “A Voter ID card can be issued at any Georgia Department of Driver Services office free of charge.”

            https://dds.georgia.gov/voter-id

            Damn these “Jim Crow” laws!

            Why trash like “The new law is so restrictive, in fact, and so reminiscent of blatant Jim Crow–era attempts to disenfranchise Black people” is misleading has already been explained. It ignores what the law actually does and what laws in other states do. This is an ideological war, not a fact-based one. You have a position and expect reality to conform around it. Funny how that is bad for claims that sports games are drivers of economic activity, but good here. Must be your good intentions. Others lie for bad reasons. You willfully misrepresent reality for the greater good! It is not “lying”, but simply adjusting facts to how they should be.

          2. Here is an annotated list of all the things the new Georgia law does, for those interested:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html

        3. This is hilarious. You appear to lack the moral fibre required to post under your own name, you answer or address none of the points raised, yet you have the utter hubris to demand answers?

          When you answer my points/questions constructively I may answer yours. IF you post using your real name. Hiding behind screen names is not an effective way to get any point across… it suggests you have so little buy in to your own argument that you won’t even put your name on it.

          Oh, BTW, it appears several of the most republican sports billionaires in the nation do not agree with your assessment of the law:

          https://www.mlb.com/news/2021-all-star-game-draft-relocated

          Maybe your position isn’t as main stream as you thought.

    3. When you have far fewer polling places per capita in minority areas, or place them in areas not accessible to transit, you restrict minority voters. Expect necessary trouble from many people as we come to Georgia and will gladly be arrested to ensure the most fundamental right of Americans, to vote be protected. I will be silent as I pull my wagon with water and packaged snacks for people in line, but I will definitely do it. And I have 25 people behind me who will take over when I get arrested.

  3. I’m not a big fan of calling people “liars” in the comment section because it carries a connotation of intent, and who can know that? But misinformation should be called out. It is true that this post is amplifying misrepresentations and ignorance. The Georgia Bill does put bans on electioneering similar to what is found in other states. It does add in some ID requirements (a quick google of the popularity of ID requirements shows that they are popular not just with Republicans, but favored by majorities of Democrats, and not just majorities white people but of black people as well). The bill also expands early voting and codifies a process by which new polling sites can be opened up if lines get too long. This is so far from “Jim Crow” as to make me wonder if the people making that claim are completely ignorant about that period of our history. The best parts of this blog are about the lack of shame most corporations have when it comes to finagling money from localities to advance their own interests; the readers of this post, seeing how blatantly and terribly it misleads about the facts, will have to decide for themselves if marshaling untruths to shame corporations is a worthwhile task.

    1. Thank you for posting a common sense response to this topic.

      My fear is that the folks who are distorting what’s in this bill will end up bullying this state and other states into reversing a bill which, although not perfect, is a reasonably balanced attempt at addressing both fraud and access.

      And let’s be honest, neither voter fraud OR voter access should be on the top 100 list of problems to address in this country right now. Unfortunately the people who benefit from stoking this issue (cable news, both political parties, etc.) are doing this to us.

      1. “…is a reasonably balanced attempt at addressing both fraud and access…”

        No, it’s not, because everyone involved knows that there’s been no real fraud. So there’s no addressing to be done. It’s worse than your garden-variety “solution in search of a problem”, it’s a solution to a problem that only exists in the minds of those who have been convinced there is a problem – by the same people who are now imposing a “solution”.

        1. I agree that there has been no significant fraud. There have also been no significant issues with voter access. Which is why my main point was that this is not a significant problem in spite of all the “Jim Crow” garbage being tossed around in the press.

          1. Significant issues with voter access in Georgia, even prior to this law:

            https://www.npr.org/2020/10/17/924527679/why-do-nonwhite-georgia-voters-have-to-wait-in-line-for-hours-too-few-polling-pl

            “Georgia’s voter rolls have grown by nearly 2 million people, yet polling locations have been cut statewide by nearly 10%.”

          2. My read of that NPR article is that it cherry picks stats to fit the “Jim Crow 2.0!” narrative, and that it is not evidence of wide scale or intentional voter suppression.

            Local officials decide on polling closures, not the state. The closures have been consistent across both Democratic and Republican districts. The closures have mirrored the explosion in mail in and absentee voting.

            And even the NPR article notes that the long lines in June were impacted by the coronavirus epidemic (which caused additional poll closures), combined with reticence by black voters to utilize mail in or absentee voting. Voter turnout also contradicts the voter suppression narrative.

            I would caution everyone to read both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions on this issue.

  4. Where would the game be moved to? What place, of the 30 MLB cities, is nirvana? I am a Canadian and we have voter ID requirements. Mind you, national elections are managed by Elections Canada, a Canada-wide agency that, as far as I can tell is apolitical. So, because no party has made the way Canadians vote an issue, seems to me that its not an issue. Maybe it suits both the Republicans and the Democrats to have this as an issue.
    Of course, I am looking at this from my own (& Canadian) perspective. I recently watched the Blinding of Isaac Woodard on PBS and recognize that there is mistrust (to put in mildly) in the voting system for black Americans.
    I will put this out there: if identification can give a person access to voting, health care, banking, etc., then is there more value in an “get identification initiative” or a “get out the vote initiative”?

  5. Did Rob Manfred watch the interview on ESPN in which President Biden talked to Sage Steele? In it, Biden called for the game to be removed from Cobb County. I can only wonder if that was the final push that caused him to make the decision today. Certainly, it was well before Jackie Robinson Day on 4/15.

    I do feel bad for the Braves fans who will miss out on hosting the All-Star festivities this year and hope they understand the reason for it.

    1. The up side would be if they get the ASG in a couple of years, plus also more ways to easily vote.

      1. Nope. I do not think the law will no change unless there is a change of party in the legislature. MLB did what it had to do to stop the bleeding our interest from a generation where AOC is a rock star. Plus it doesn’t look like the Floyd trial isn’t going good as we speak but that could change. I have my own opinion on the law but Georgia brought this on themselves with poor timing

        1. In a state where the Governor elect got to supervise his own election and make decisions the kinds of decisions that are reserved for independent public officials in all REAL democracies, I would say anything is possible.

  6. I have no problem with the State of Georgia finding each and every eligible voter and providing them a free ID to vote with.
    What citizen wouldn’t be fine with higher state taxes used to protect the integrity of the vote?

    1. LMAO, imagine being naïve enough to think the typical Repub voter would be “fine with higher taxes”

    2. Therein lies the hypocrisy. Social or wedge issues. HELL NO! Don’t you dare raise my taxes. New stadium. Hmmm. Creates construction and stadium jobs. Millions and billions in economic and other benefits. Okay, I’m good with it.

      Albuquerque (USL stadium); Amarillo (Hodgetown Stadium); Arlington (Globe-Life Field); Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium); Calgary (new NHL arena); Clearwater (BayCare Ballpark); Cincinnati (West End Stadium); Cobb County (Truist Park); Columbus (MLS stadium); Dunedin (TD Ballpark); Elmont (UBS Arena); Hartford (Dunkin Donuts Park); Henderson (Dollar Loan Center); Honolulu (new stadium); Indianapolis (USL stadium); Knoxville (Tennessee Smokies); Las Vegas (Allegiant Stadium); Louisville (Lynn Family Stadium); Milwaukee (Fiserv Forum); Minneapolis (U. S. Bank Stadium); Montreal (Olympic Stadium); Nashville (Nashville SC Stadium); New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome upgrade); Oklahoma City (Chesapeake Energy Arena, USL, whatever); Orlando (Camping World Stadium & Exploria Stadium); Phoenix (USL stadium); St. Louis (St. Louis City Stadium); Summerlin (Las Vegas Ballpark); Washington DC (Audi Field) and Worcester (Polar Park).

      Old remaining relics:

      Angels Stadium (Anaheim); Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City https://nesn.com/2014/09/chiefs-owners-suite-at-arrowhead-stadium-is-elaborate-unreal-photos/ ); Astrodome (Houston)*; Bills Stadium (Ooops, Buffalo’s next); Kaufman Stadium (Ooops, maybe Kansas City’s next); Oakland-Alameda Arena / Coliseum and Seattle Center Coliseum. Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego) was just demolished, taxpayers not funding a new stadium. RFK Stadium (Washington DC) scheduled to be demolished in 2022. Fedex Stadium replacement? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

      Common thread. Those damn residents in many west coast cities don’t want to be taxed for new stadiums.

      * Now on National Register of Historic Places.

  7. Even if you like this law you should support the decision if you are a true baseball fan. With the Trump presidency, the new media environment, COVID, the Floyd-Taylor situation, the nationalization of the body politic, attitudes of Gen-Z, and past presidential election, MLB cannot afford to be in the eye of the storm of any of this. That is how it should be explained. It is in the entertainment business

  8. It’s interesting that proponents of this new law can only defend it by saying, essentially, “It’s not that bad, it won’t stop people from voting.” If that’s true, what need was there in the first place to pass it? Why was it enacted at all?

    The answer to that is obvious: It was the result of several months of lies about a “stolen election,” widespread “vote fraud,” etc. Lies that are, unfortunately, still being told, still being discussed, and still treated as truth among the country’s Right.

    The cold fact is that Georgia hammered this law through in response to a crisis that does not exist, and it solves a problem that state does not have. They did it because, as they see it, too many Democratic votes were counted in Georgia, in the space of 2 months, and they needed to find a way to reduce that number. Desperately.

    Quibble all you like about its details. My home state (CT) has a voter ID requirement, but they will still allow provisional balloting without one. It also forbids electioneering within 75 feet of polling places, but I’m not aware of any provision making it illegal to merely hand out water as long as one doesn’t promote a candidate in the process. In CT you also can only get an absentee ballot if you provide a reason for it, such as you’ll be out-of-state on Election Day. We also have never had early voting (aside from getting an absentee ballot and sending it back before Election Day).

    Those have all been the law here for a long time and that’s what we’ve all adjusted to over the years. The problem is changing rules that people have been accustomed to, that create impediments to voting that they haven’t faced previously.

    And that is precisely the point of the Georgia law: To create new impediments to voting that hadn’t existed before. Simply the reduction of polling places and polling hours accomplishes this … the voter ID and water-passing provisions notwithstanding. The details of those impediments matter far less than just the fact that they’re being imposed, because too many of “the wrong sort of people” (aka Democrats) are voting, and because of lies that have been repeatedly told and that too many people accept as truth.

    I note that the condemnation of “cancel culture” (i.e. moving the All Star Game) by the Right comes at exactly the same time that Right-wingers successfully bullied Nike into going after a rapper who sold modified versions of their sneakers as “Satan shoes.” The stench of their hypocrisy is overwhelming.

  9. How about saving your breath, Georgia, and just make voting as easy as possible?

    And, btw, offering folks in line a drink of water isn’t and shouldn’t be a crime.

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