Major League Baseball discusses the status of its 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta as more companies publicly oppose a new voting law recently passed in Georgia.
The league will collect feedback from teams and executives on the matter before making a decision on moving the game. Baseball’s midsummer event is scheduled for July 13 at Truist Park, home of the Braves.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told The Associated Press the league expects to have “substantive talks” with Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, about moving the game. But Manfred did not go into detail about MLB’s plan or his stance on the new law.
“I talk to different grassroots within the game and I just don’t go beyond what I would or wouldn’t consider,” said Manfred.
Georgian legislators accepted an account that will review the state elections. The new law adds guidelines around postal ballots, voter registration and gives state officials more authority over how elections are conducted. Georgian Governor Brian Kemp signed the amendments to the law on March 25.
Critics of Georgia’s new voting laws say it will suppress voting, especially among people of color in disadvantaged areas. In an interview with ESPN, President Joe Biden said criticized the changes, calling it “Jim Crow on steroids.” The president added that he would support moving the MLB All-Star Game.
Kemp defended the law when he appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Wednesday, saying it will give more people the chance to vote over the weekend. Kemp also said calls to move the All-Star game are “ridiculous” in an interview with Fox news.
On Wednesday, top Wall Street executives, including Merck CEO Ken Frazier, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian and former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, expressed their dismay at the new law.
“Businesses need to get up. There’s no middle ground,” said Chenault, who appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” with Frazier. The executives called for more companies to publicly oppose elements of Gregoria’s revised voting laws.
Should the city lose the game, it could suffer financially.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, local taxpayers would pay $2 million for the cost of hosting MLB’s event, but would see a great return on that investment. The 2019 All-Star Game was expected to come in $65 million for Cleveland. According to baseball almanac, the last time Atlanta hosted the game in 2000, it generated $49 million.
“There is economic impact,” said Bill Squires, an expert in sports facilities and event management. “People go there for a weekend; look at the home run game, the game on Monday. There are hotels, Uber, restaurants, plane tickets, rental cars — there’s bound to be economic impact.”
While moving the game could be logistically difficult, Squires, who previously ran Yankee Stadium, said he’d be shocked if MLB didn’t already have a contingency plan in place, especially in a pandemic. He used the National Football League as an example.
“Know how sports works, just think of the NFL with the situation with the San Francisco 49ers who couldn’t play at Levi Stadium and quickly moved to State Farm Stadium in (Arizona),” said Squires, who also teaches at Columbia University. “The contingency plans are always in place; they should be. I would be shocked if every league doesn’t have a backup plan for the primary location because it depends on what’s happening in the world.”
If MLB moved its game, it wouldn’t be the first time a professional league has moved a major event due to a controversial law.
In 2016, the National Basketball Association removed the 2017 All-Star game from North Carolina after “House Bill 2,” otherwise known as the “bathroom bill,” restricted the rights of the LGBT community. The NCAA too suspended are championship events in the state. The bill was finally withdrawn and the NBA returned the event to Charlotte in 2019.
“It has tarnished our reputation, it has discriminated against our people and it has caused great economic damage in many of our communities,” North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said in 2017 after the bill was overturned.
But since MLB is silent on its stance, it could hurt baseball’s image. Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at University of Washington in St. Louis, said MLB’s lack of action could alienate younger fans.
“If MLB is serious about serving a younger audience, and that has been an important goal, their actions in this matter will say a lot,” Rishe said. “These younger fans want the brands they use to stand for something and they also want their teams and their leagues to stand for something.”
MLB will open the 2021 regular season on Thursday, returning to a 162 game format after only playing 60 games last season due to the pandemic.