By Milo Boublik
New York City, New York
Major League Baseball was far behind other American sports leagues in its push for social justice and participation in movements such as Black Lives Matter. As a result, many people saw it as a monumental step forward that the MLB announced its decision to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in opposition to a new voting law that restricts voting access for people of color in Georgia. However, others believe that this decision is hypocritical and will accomplish the opposite of what it set out to do.
The decision was announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who said, “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box...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.”
Many prominent American figures, including several politicians, voiced their support for his decision. The White House said, “He said earlier this week that if the decision was made by Major League Baseball to move the All-Star game, he would certainly support that decision - and now that MLB has made that choice, he certainly does.” President Barack Obama also displayed his support for the decision in a tweet: “Congratulations to @MLB for taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens.”
Several athletes also made their supportive positions clear. Lebron James said, “Proud to call myself a part of the @mlb family today. @Morethanavote #BlackLivesMatter.” Magic Johnson said, “I want to applaud and extend a thank you to @MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for moving the All Star Game out of Georgia following the Governor’s signing of the new restrictive voting law. Way to be a leader and take a strong stance!”
Although the MLB received support from many Americans, it received an equal amount of fierce opposition from equally distinguished voices. The Atlanta Braves, whose stadium would have hosted the All-Star Game, released a statement, saying, “The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its' 2021 All Star Game…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…Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”
The Braves sentiment represents the main point of contention over this decision. Many people are in agreement over the faults of the new voting law; however, some argue that the decision to relocate the All-Star Game from Atlanta will only hurt the people it was designed to help. Removing the game from Atlanta will cause businesses in Atlanta, including Black-owned businesses, to lose the revenue it would have received from the game, and some believe that this sacrifice is not worth sending the message that the MLB is trying to send.
Another distinguished figure who holds this point of view is Stacey Abrams. She said, “I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star Game; however, I commend the players, owners and League commissioner for speaking out…I respect boycotts, although I don't want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs.”
Although the MLB’s decision did face considerable pushback, regardless of whether it was the correct decision, many believe it sends a strong message and represents a major step forward in American sports leagues’ push for social and racial justice.