Georgia governor Kemp applauds Augusta National for ‘not getting involved in politics’

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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp praised the Augusta National Golf Club for not yielding to political pressures that have recently befallen the state.

“Personally, I applaud the Masters for not getting involved in politics,” Kemp told CNBC’s Seema Mody in an interview that aired Friday, noting that there are “growing calls from activists trying to pressure people” in the sport.

Kemp’s comments came as Augusta National hosted this year’s Masters golf tournament, which began Thursday. The event came after the Republican governor signed an election law last month that critics say disproportionately deprives voters of color.

Major League Baseball announced on April 2 that it was withdrawing its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the bill’s signing. Kemp overturned the league’s decision on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

“I don’t appreciate the position they’ve taken,” Kemp said. “They can just stand up and have some backbone until the activists put money in their pockets while hard work and Georgians are hurt by Major League Baseball’s decision.”

MLB did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Augusta National Golf Club president Fred Ridley said on Wednesday that voting rights are fundamental to a democratic society. Ridley, however, declined to say whether he supports or opposes Georgia’s new law.

Decisions by major sports organizations such as those of MLB and Augusta National also have huge economic implications.

“Every time thousands and hundreds of thousands of people pour into the city, that definitely trickles down to our little neighborhood, and then we see the economic benefits of that,” Alphonzo Cross, owner of Parlor Cocktail Den in Atlanta, told CNBC. He also said he’s trying to figure out how to make up for lost business from the All-Star Game.

Some economists estimate that the city’s losses from losing the All-Star Game could be reach about $10 million.

In Augusta — 240 miles east of Atlanta — companies have a much more positive outlook. Augusta officials expect the golf tournament to yield at the very least $50 million. Heather Chancey, owner of Mexican grill Cantina Locale, told CNBC that her business has seen an increase this week “probably 60 to 75%.”

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