MLB made waves recently. Waves is probably too weak of a word. MLB made tsunami waves recently regarding their decision on the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta. MLB moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to new legislation. The bill changes voting access in the state of Georgia.
According to The New York Times, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says, “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. Fair access to voting continues to have our unwavering support.”
That statement holds water. Several teams, Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles (Dodgers), Milwaukee and Washington (D.C.) all turned their stadium into voting locations to provide easier access to voting.
Reaction of MLB
The Miami Marlins chief executive and former Yankee and current Hall of Famer is the head of the MLBPA (MLB Players Association). Derek Jeter supports the move. “We should promote increasing voter turnout as opposed to any measures that adversely impact the ability to cast a ballot… We support the commissioner’s decision to stand up for the values of our game,” he said.
As usual, this new law was met with animosity. MLB pulled the game, but there was some consideration of a boycott prior. Naturally, this move has also been met with animosity.
Fittingly, Governor Brian Kemp, who signed the bill, voiced his opposition to MLB’s decision. “Today, Major League Baseball 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,” he said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump led the outrage as well. He noted the loss of baseball fans recently. He said, “Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with free and fair elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta and all?” Coke and Delta are pulling business in response to the new law, as well.
It should be noted that this bill, as with most everything, is not black and white. It’s not an unequivocally bad law. Additionally, it isn’t unequivocally good, either. Backlash is often given by one side and praise by the other. This is no different. The bill does have both good parts and bad parts, though.
WABE, an NPR affiliate, said that one key change seems to be purely retribution. David Becker, a member of the bipartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, called it “bad policy”.
Becker said, “There is nothing that helps elections in doing that, but it appears to be some kind of petty retribution against perceived disloyalty because he just did his job as well as he could and counted the votes as transparently as he did.”
Food and water
One of the points of contention is the misdemeanor charge for giving food or water to those waiting in lines. The bill prohibits “the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector…within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.” Voting rights activists consider this harmful to large counties.
It affects these counties because people will have to wait longer in lines than others. There doesn’t appear to be any valid reason for this, other than limiting campaigning. It seems quite unlikely that someone would change their vote based on who gave them water.
One positive, and Republicans seems to be pointing to this the most, is the expansion of early voting days. This includes adding some weekends to open up options for working people who can’t do it during the week. This is a good thing. However, it limits ballot boxes and poses restrictions on mail-in voting. This may limit the amount of voters overall.
Why they wanted to do this is really anyone’s guess. This guess is purely speculation. Nonetheless, it seems that after Georgia was instrumental in Joe Biden’s victory and in Democrats controlling the Senate, Republicans want changes.
Republicans often cite election security as the main proponent for the bill. However, it was independently certified which gives little to no reason to introduce sweeping voting legislation changes.
Evidently, MLB agrees with that idea, as do lots of companies.
The Choice MLB Made
MLB made a choice. They have their principles and values and they’re sticking to them. Anything less would seem hypocritical. That’s the primary reason that it was the right choice. I believe if they moved the game in response to a value shared with the other side, it would have been the right choice for them.
I believe it was the right choice in general, too. Voting is something that should be accessible to as many people as possible. Instead, it seems Georgia is intent on limiting that. MLB fundamentally disagrees with that principle. Therefore, they moved the game. That was the logical choice.
MLB’s decision opens them up to heavy criticism and possible retribution. Republicans have already began looking at how they might be able to hit back. Mitch McConnell warned MLB not to get involved in partisan politics.
Companies have been increasingly socially aware as of late. Most major sports leagues have spoken out in support of Black Lives Matter and against anti-Asian hate. Corporations are taking their corporate social responsibility more seriously now.
Getting involved in these issues may end up hurting MLB. I’m willing to bet they’re ready to take that and keep standing on their principles. Moving the MLB All-Star game is the first real test of this. This is significant because it could signify a seismic shift in how corporations and companies deal with politics.
The days are long gone when sports and companies stayed out of any current events. Moving the All-Star game may just be the most high-profile example to date. However, more is certain to come. The bar is definitely moving.