Former President Barack Obama has praised the MLB for its decision to pull its All-Star Game from Georgia over the state’s new voting law, as Republican governor Brian Kemp slammed the league for ‘caving to fear and lies’.
‘Congratulations to @MLB for taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens,’ Obama tweeted on Saturday morning.
‘There’s no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always led by example.’
Obama’s response to the MLB’s decision stands in stark contrast with former President Donald Trump, who has called on supporters to ‘boycott baseball’, while Kemp and Tucker Carlson blasted cancel culture.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred Jr. announced Friday that it would be relocating the 2021 All-Star Game – scheduled to take place at Atlanta’s Truist Park on July 13 – after Kemp signed the controversial bill into law last week.
The Republican-backed legislation makes numerous changes to how elections will be administered in the state, including a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail.
Critics believe the bill will unfairly restrict voting rights and curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the US Senate.
Kemp on Saturday vowed to defend the measure in court, saying ‘free and fair elections’ are worth any threats, boycotts or lawsuits to come.
Former President Barack Obama expressed praise for the MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia as a result of the state’s new voting legislation
Governor Brian Kemp hosts a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta after the MLB announced the All Star Game would no longer be hosted in the city because of recent voting legislation
The Republican governor said at a news conference that the MLB had ‘caved to fear and lies from liberal activists’.
He added the decision will hurt working people in the state and have long-term consequences on the economy.
‘I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight. We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced,’ Kemp said.
‘Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the left, but I am not,’ he said, referring to companies that have also criticized the new law.
Kemp has insisted opponents have mischaracterized what the law does, yet Republican lawmakers made the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections made by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
Trump himself lashed out at opponents of the law in a statement on Friday.
‘Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections,’ Trump said.
‘Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!’
Former President Donald Trump called on supporters to ‘boycott baseball’ in a statement on Friday
Trump’s statement calling to boycott baseball was posted to Twitter by the RSBN Network
Obama’s mention of Hank Aaron in his statement came after the star’s passing in January.
At the time, Obama paid tribute to the Atlanta Braves icon, writing: ‘Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
‘Every time Michelle and I spent time with Hank and his wife Billye, we were struck by their kindness, generosity and grace — and were reminded that we stood on the shoulders of a previous generation of trailblazers.
He never missed an opportunity to lead — including earlier this month, when Hank and Billye joined civil rights leaders and got COVID vaccines.’
The MLB joins a growing list of corporations, including Coca-Cola and Porsche, that have publicly condemned the state’s new election laws following backlash from activists.
Earlier on Friday Gov. Kemp appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight where he blasted the MLB for giving into ‘cancel culture.’
‘This is unbelievable, I mean really unfortunate today that Major League Baseball has folded up and caved to the cancel culture and to a bunch of liberal lies, quite honestly,’ Kemp said.
‘What is even more sad is that the President of the United States Joe Biden, and people like Stacey Abrams, labeling the election integrity act Jim Crow. This is what happens.’
He continued: ‘Now you have a lot of small business owners, a lot of great baseball fans, including myself, getting deprived of having the All-Star Game in Atlanta because of the cancel culture.’
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp blasted cancel culture after MLB pulled its All-Star Game from the state over its new voting law
‘I think it’s a message to all of us, all across this country that are home tonight, they are coming after you next. You know, they’re going to come after your ballgame. They are going to boycott your business.’
Carlson himself was similarly critical of the backlash, which he says is an example of big corporations meddling in the democratic process.
‘In a democracy, the people rule. If voters want something done over time, it happens. That’s what self-government is,’ Carlson said.
‘But what do you call a system in which all the really important decisions are made by big companies without any reference at all to what voters want? Well, that is not democracy. It’s corporatocracy, and it’s starting to look a lot like what we have now. ‘
Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola earlier this week also voiced their ‘crystal clear’ opposition to the new law.
‘It’s so hypocritical, too. It’s like, Major League Baseball is headquartered in New York. Delta is flying in New York. I’m sure Coca-Cola sell a lot of product in New York,’ Kemp said, as he blasted New York voting laws which he claims are more restrictive.
‘When you look at New York’s voting laws, you have to have an excuse to vote absentee by mail in New York. You do not in Georgia. If you want to vote absentee here, you can do it.’
Kemp claimed that Georgia has 17 days of in-person early voting before the election while New York has 10.
‘I guess we should be boycotting, you know, them for having their headquarters in New York because that law is more stricter than ours,’ Kemp said. ‘I mean, this is all ridiculous.’
Kemp appeared on Fox News on Friday to blast ‘cancel culture’ in an interview with Tucker Carlson after MLB decided to pull out of his state
Major League Baseball has decided to move the 2021 All-Star Game away from Truist Park in Atlanta because of Georgia’s controversial new law
Kemp claimed that the new law ‘simply’ changes the signature requirement for absentee ballots to require using voter I.D.
‘We have been using voter ID in Georgia since the mid 2000s and 97% of the people voted in-person before the pandemic. So they are used to using a voter ID,’ Kemp said.
Atlanta Braves blast MLB decision
The Atlanta Braves baseball team has fired back at Major League Baseball after it was announced the 2021 All-Star Game would be moved from Atlanta over the backlash over Georgia’s new voting laws.
In a statement, the team said that it was ‘disappointed’ by the decision that was made by the organization.
‘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 team said in a statement on social media.
‘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.
‘Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision. We will continue to support the community legacy projects which have been planned are in process.’
‘We are securing drop boxes, which were never in the law before this bill. And fixing a lot of other things that will make sure we have secure, accessible, fair elections.’
Kemp said that the boycott will not have any effect on the law.
‘I think just the reverse. I can tell you we are not backing down. The members of the legislature that voted on this bill that were duly elected in November are not backing down,’ Kemp said.
‘People are rising up because they are worried. They are worried, you know, they are worried what sport is going to be next? You know, what event is going to be next? What business is going to be next?’
Amid growing pressure from civil rights advocates as well as current and former players, MLB decided to move the 2021 All-Star Game away from Atlanta’s Truist Park because of Georgia’s new voting law.
MLB’s draft, which was slated to be held in Atlanta, is also being relocated.
‘Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,’ read Friday’s statement from Manfred.
‘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’s new voting law had prompted calls from as high as the White House to move the midsummer classic out of Atlanta.
Kemp also responded to the decision in a series of angry tweets on Friday.
‘Today, @MLB caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies.
‘I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections.’
MLB awarded the game to Atlanta in 2019. It was scheduled for July 13 as part of baseball’s midsummer break that includes the Futures Game on July 11 and the Home Run Derby the following night.
The event is lucrative for host cities, generating an average of $84.4 million a year over the last decade, according to MLB data.
Amid growing pressure from voting rights advocates as well as current and former players, Major League Baseball has decided to move the 2021 All-Star Game away from Truist Park outside Atlanta because of Georgia’s controversial new law
The game was set for July 13 at Truist Park, the Braves’ 41,000-seat stadium in suburban Cobb County. It would have been the third time Atlanta served as host, having previously held the event in 1972 and 2000. Several companies, such as Delta Airlines, have criticized the law
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp responded to the decision in a series of tweets on Friday
The Atlanta Braves, the All-Star Game’s host team, criticized MLB’s decision in a statement, saying the club is ‘deeply disappointed.’
‘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,’ read the statement.
‘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.’
The statement continued: ‘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.’
‘Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision,’ it reads.
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom seized the opportunity to offer up one of the five MLB stadiums in his state, tweeting: ‘Hey @MLB — feel free to give us a call. In California we actually work to expand voter access – not prevent it.’
In the face of repeated assertions by Trump that Georgia’s election was fraudulent, the Republican-controlled legislature approved a sweeping new law that would, among other things, place new ID requirements on absentee voting by mail and prohibit handing out food and water to voters standing in line.
Supporters of the law have said it merely ensures election integrity and stamps out potential fraud. Others have said the motives are more sinister after an election that registered nearly 5 million votes with no credible evidence of serious wrongdoing.
MLB still plans to honor the late Hank Aaron at this year’s All-Star Game, wherever it is held. Aaron famous endured racist abuse and threats to surpass Babe Ruth as baseball’s all-time home run leader in Atlanta in 1974. He passed away earlier this year in Atlanta at 86
‘Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,’ Manfred’s statement continued. ‘In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States.
‘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. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.’
Manfred went on to invoke the memory of Braves legend Hank Aaron, the African-American slugger who famously endured intense racial abuse and violent threats to overtake Babe Ruth for baseball’s all-time home run record.
‘We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities,’ Manfred continued.
‘In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.’
The Atlanta Braves, the All-Star Game’s host team, criticized MLB’s decision in a statement, saying the club is ‘deeply disappointed’
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom seized the opportunity to offer up one of the five MLB stadiums in his state
One of baseball’s biggest stars, Braves first baseman and reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman (pictured), weighed in on the divisive issue Thursday, just a few hours before Atlanta opened the season in Philadelphia
One of baseball’s biggest stars, Braves first baseman and reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman, weighed in on the divisive issue Thursday, just a few hours before Atlanta opened the season in Philadelphia.
Freeman suggested that the game should remain at Truist Park, but be used as a platform to promote voting rights.
‘Why not?’ he said. ‘What’s happened in the last couple of months has already gone through’ the state Legislature and been signed into law last week by Governor Brian Kemp.
Protesters gather on a busy street corner to voice their opposition and share details to area residents about a far-reaching overhaul of the state’s election laws
‘Why not use what we already have here as a platform in the city and the state it’s been passed through,’ Freeman added. ‘I think it would be better to keep it (in Atlanta) and use it as a platform.’
Others have taken a different tack.
Biden told ESPN he would ‘strongly support’ pulling the game out of Atlanta because of a law he described as ‘Jim Crow on steroids.’
Two of Atlanta’s sports team owners also seemed to express their opposition to the law in statements that bemoaned restrictions on voting access, though neither specifically cited the new statute.
‘Every voice and every vote matters and should be heard through our democratic process in Georgia,’ said Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United. ‘We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen.’
Tony Ressler, owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, noted that his team was the first in the country to open its arena as an early voting site for last year’s elections. He said the team remains ‘committed to endorsing steps that promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot.’
A truck bearing an ACLU message against the recently-passed Senate Bill 202 which was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp appears on a truck passing near the state capitol
Ann White of Roswell holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on day 38 of the legislative session in Atlanta
Sports has long been a conduit for promoting social change, a movement that only grown over the past year with America’s renewed reckoning over racial injustice.
Often, it involves major events with hefty economic clout.
In the early 1990s, the Super Bowl was moved out of Arizona after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Once the state reversed course, the game was held in Arizona in 1996 and will return again for the fourth time in 2023.
For years, the NCAA barred holding its championships in states where the Confederate battle flag was officially recognized. The last of those states, Mississippi, adopted a new flag in January that removed a banner many consider a vestige of slavery.
The 2017 NBA All-Star Game was stripped from Charlotte because of objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. After the so-called ‘bathroom bill’ was repealed, the NBA brought its showcase event to Charlotte in 2019.
From left foreground, Toni Watkins; her partner, state Rep. Park Cannon; Martin Luther King III, and his wife, Andrea King, march silently with others along Mitchell Street in front of the Capitol building in Atlanta. Cannon returned to the Statehouse on Monday, March 29, 2021 for the first time since she was arrested after knocking on Governor Brian Kemp’s private office while he was delivering remarks about the state’s new elections restrictions
While numerous GOP-governed states around the country have pushed for new restrictions on voting in the wake of Biden’s victory over Trump, Georgia has become a lightning rod for the issue because of its pivotal role in the November election.
With the hefty turnout buoyed by early and absentee voting, Biden won a narrow victory over Trump in the Peach State – the first time Georgia has been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.
Also, the state’s two Republican incumbent senators were defeated by Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, giving their party effective control of the U.S. Senate.
While much of the attention in the sports world has focused on the All-Star Game, a civil rights organization called on the PGA Tour and the Masters to pull the tournament – the sport’s first major championship of the year – out of Georgia by not playing at Augusta National.
The National Black Justice Coalition also urged professional golfers not to refuse to play in Georgia until the law is repealed.
Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs the law S.B. 202, a restrictive voting law that activists have said aimed to curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the U.S. Senate
The PGA Tour has no control over the Masters. The tournament is run by Augusta National, an exclusive club that has previously faced protests over its one-time exclusion of Blacks and women from the membership rolls.
The club ignored the request and carried on with a women’s amateur event that leads into next week’s Masters.
The PGA Tour holds its season finale at East Lake in Atlanta, and it has another tournament in the fall on the Georgia coast at Sea Island.
Another prominent women’s tournament is set to be held in suburban Atlanta this summer.
The Women’s PGA Championship, one of five majors on the LPGA Tour, is scheduled for Atlanta Athletic Club on June 24-27.
The PGA of America said in a statement, ‘The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is a partnership between three organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion: PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG.
‘Like many entities, we are monitoring developments related to the new state legislation on voting access. We believe elections should be accessible, fair and secure, and support broad voter participation.’
Georgia’s new election laws explained
The sweeping rewrite of Georgia’s election rules, signed into law last Thursday by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, makes numerous changes to how elections will be administered, including a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail.
Republican supporters say the law is needed to restore confidence in Georgia’s elections. Democrats say it will restrict voting access, especially for voters of color. Here’s a look at some of the top issues:
African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson announces a boycott of Coca-Cola Co. products outside the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Atlanta
The State Election Board can now take over local election offices and replace officials
Much of the work administering elections in Georgia is handled by the state’s 159 counties. The law gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials. That has led to concerns that the Republican-controlled state board could exert more influence over the administration of elections, including the certification of county results.
One target for intervention could be Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold that contains most of Atlanta. The heavily-populated county has been plagued by problems, including long lines, and it is often singled out by Republican officials. Under the law, the board could intervene in up to four counties at a time and install a temporary superintendent with the ability to hire and fire personnel including elections directors and poll officers.
Demonstrators in Atlanta hold a rally outside of the World Of Coca-Cola museum protesting the Coca-Cola corporation’s donations to several politicians who are in support of several voting bills that are an attempt at voter suppression
Anyone handing out snacks or water to voters in line can be prosecuted
The new law makes it a misdemeanor for ‘any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink’ to anyone standing in line to vote. The prohibition extends 150 feet from a polling place and 25 feet from any person standing in line.
Advocates of the law say they are attempting to crack down on political organizations or advocacy groups trying to influence voters just before they cast a ballot. Critics say it’s cruel and would penalize even nonpartisan groups or individuals for something as simple as giving water to someone waiting in a long line. Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler slammed the proposal Thursday before the bill was signed into law, saying: ‘They want to make it a crime to bring Grandma some water while she’s waiting in line.’
Georgia lawmakers argue that polling places would be able to, but not required to, set up self-serve water dispensers for voters.
Some defenders of the law, including Tucker Carlson, have claimed that the prohibition on handing out water only covers political organizations – which is the law in Montana.
But the Georgia law specifically says ‘any person’ – and could include friends and family of voters in line.
Early voting and black-voter drives as Georgia residents attended church were seen as vital in securing Senate run-off victories for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock
Early weekend voting has been expanded, rather than restricted
Republicans had proposed at one time to limit early voting on weekends, a time when many black churches conduct ‘souls to the polls’ efforts to take congregants to vote. But Republicans reversed themselves, and the measure now expands weekend early voting. Previously, one day of weekend voting was required, with counties given the option of offering more. Now two Saturdays will be required, and counties can offer two Sunday voting days as well. Republicans point to this provision to argue they are actually expanding, rather than restricting, voting access.
‘Contrary to the hyper-partisan rhetoric you may have heard inside and outside this gold dome, the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State,’ Kemp said Thursday.
State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021
Georgia’s runoff races will be shortened
Georgia is the only state in the nation that mandates runoff elections between the top two finishers following general elections in which no candidate achieves a majority. Like some other states, Georgia also mandates runoffs for candidates who do not win a majority in a party primary.
The system came under scrutiny from Republicans after Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won twin runoffs in January.
The new law shortens the time for runoffs from nine weeks to four, with lawmakers saying the current span is ‘exhausting’ and needs to be shortened to a ‘more manageable period.’
Military and overseas voters will use ranked-choice absentee ballots to rank all possible candidates before a primary or general election, allowing their preferences to be determined in any possible runoff. Georgia only had three weeks before runoffs until 2013, when a federal judge ordered a longer gap to give military and overseas voters more time to return ballots.
The shorter period means less time for early and mail voting. Early voting had lasted three weeks before runoffs. Now early voting would begin ‘as soon as possible’ but no later than the second Monday before the election, possibly leaving as little as five weekdays and no weekend days of early voting. Voters would also have less time to apply for a mail ballot.
No new voters could be registered in the period before a runoff because the registration deadline would be the day before the earlier election.
Protesters opposed to changes in Georgia’s voting laws sit on the steps inside the State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga., as the Legislature breaks for lunch Monday, March 8, 2021, in Atlanta
Opponents vow to keep fighting the new laws
Three groups filed a lawsuit late Thursday to try to block the law. The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise Inc. say the law violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as parts of the federal Voting Rights Act that say states cannot restrict Black voter participation.
‘These unjustified measures will individually and cumulatively operate to impose unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote, to deny or abridge the voting rights of Black Georgians, and to deny Black voters in Georgia an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process and elect candidates of their choice,’ says the lawsuit, which is filed against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia’s State Elections Board.
Opponents are also looking to Congress, which is considering nationwide voting standards. A Democratic-backed measure passed the House earlier this month, but faces opposition from Senate Republicans wary of a federal takeover of state elections.
The federal proposal would create automatic voter registration nationwide, allow former felons to vote, and limit the ways states can remove registered voters from their rolls. It would expand voting by mail, promote early voting and give states money to track absentee ballots.