ATLANTA — News of Major League Baseball’s decision to pull this summer’s All-Star Game from Georgia over its sweeping new voting law reverberated among fans Saturday, while Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to defend the measure in court, saying “free and fair elections” are worth any threats, boycotts or lawsuits to come.
The Republican governor said at a news conference that the MLB “caved to fear and lies from liberal activists” when it yanked the July 13 game from Atlanta’s Truist Park. 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.
Three groups already have filed a lawsuit over the measure, which includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run. Critics say it 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.
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.
Fans, meanwhile, appeared divided on the MLB’s decision.
Patrick Smith, a lifelong Braves fan in Ellisville, Mississippi, said he thinks the MLB made the right decision and noted that not taking a stand would have polarized some supporters.
“When governments restrict access to the ballot box, someone has to step in to encourage these entities to roll back those measures,” he said.
Lorre Sweetman, in Kahului, Hawaii, said it was a poor move by the MLB because it wasn’t based on the actual new voting laws but on “political pandering” and misinformation.
Still, while some fans upset about the MLB’s decision have called for a boycott of the professional baseball, she said she will not stop watching MLB games and her three grandsons are still learning baseball.
“They caved to pressure without considering the message this sends to fans who just want to enjoy the game and support their team,” she said. “We need to take politics out of sports.”
But Dick Pagano, a baseball fan in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, said he will not watch or attend any games this year.
“They shot themselves in the foot,” said Pagano, who said he was disappointed to miss the planned Hank Aaron celebration during the All-Star Game, since he once saw him play in the 1957 World Series. Aaron, who played for the Braves in Atlanta and Milwaukee for most of his career, faced extensive hate mail and racism as he closed in on breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record.
Jeffrey Guterman, a retired mental health counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who calls himself an amateur baseball historian, said the move shows baseball changing with the times.
“I’m surprised when people argue that moving it away from Atlanta is a bad move because it would bring lots of money to the area,” he said. “The question is what costs more, moving the All-Star Game or reinforcing the oppression of votes.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday he made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year. A new ballpark for the events wasn’t immediately revealed.
Kemp criticized the MLB for not taking action on voting access in its home state of New York and said its decision means “cancel culture” is coming for American businesses and jobs.
“They’re coming for your game or event in your hometown, and they’re coming to cancel everything from sports, how you make a living, and they will stop at nothing to silence all those,” he said.
Trump also blasted the league’s move and urged his supporters to “boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections.”
Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, congratulated the MLB for its decision.
“There’s no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always led by example,” he said.