Major League Baseball's decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta has triggered a vocal political response from both sides, including one GOP congressman announcing plans to go after the league's bottom line in retaliation.
MLB announced the move on Thursday, citing its support for voting rights in light of Georgia's recently passed voter restriction law. The league said the decision was made after conversations with its clubs, players and the MLB Players Association.
The new site of the 2021 All-Star Game is not yet known, but MLB said it is finalizing a new host city with details to come shortly.
While there was clearly support around the league to move the game, the Atlanta Braves, who were set to host the game at Truist Park, soon released a statement expressing their dismay. The team said that while it recognizes the importance of equal voting opportunities, it lamented the economic cost for local businesses and employees.
The Braves statement regarding the moving of the MLB All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/0Iapm3eIre
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 2, 2021
While several politicians were quick to make their thoughts known about MLB's decision, Rep. Jeff Duncan, who represents South Carolina's third district in the U.S. House of Representatives, took things a step further by announcing that he has instructed his staff to draft legislation to remove MLB's antitrust exemption.
In light of @MLB's stance to undermine election integrity laws, I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball's federal antitrust exception.
— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) April 2, 2021
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted his support for Duncan's idea, questioning why MLB has antitrust immunity at all.
Why does @MLB still have antitrust immunity? It’s time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations—especially those that punish their political opponents. https://t.co/k3GIZuGYHB
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 2, 2021
What is MLB's antitrust exemption?
MLB's antitrust exemption dates back to 1922, when the Supreme Court ruled that federal antitrust laws do not apply to baseball. In the century since that ruling, MLB has used that status to maintain an iron grip on the sport while hardballing business partners and employees, such as severely underpaid minor leaguers. The NFL, NBA and other leagues in the U.S. do not enjoy the same benefits, though none of those leagues have a minor league system on the scale of MLB's in which the exemption does most of its work.
Obviously, MLB losing its antitrust exemption could do significant damage to its bottom line, though it would be an enormous win for the players union that was seemingly in favor of moving the All-Star Game.
Politicians, and LeBron James, react to MLB moving All-Star Game
Politicians across Georgia were quick to respond to MLB's decision. Key figures on both sides of the aisle lamented the loss for the state, though GOP politicians were obviously harsher with their reactions.
Sen. Raphael Warnock on MLB’s withdrawal of the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
Short version: if you want to make a difference, don’t run away, stay and help. pic.twitter.com/zgOAZ4qFLU
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) April 2, 2021
Today, @MLB caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 2, 2021
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) April 2, 2021
The @MLB had the chance to honor an iconic trailblazer and @Braves legend Hank Aaron.
Instead, the bowed to the woke disinformation campaign of the Left—to the detriment of hardworking Georgians and small businesses.
Full statement below ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/VBjzWEYkKZ
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) April 2, 2021
While former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler claimed MLB decided against honoring Braves legend Hank Aaron, MLB said in its statement that it still planned to honor Aaron's memory during All-Star festivities no matter the location.
Aaron's grandson Raynal Aaron also signaled that he didn't appreciate Loeffler using the memory of his grandfather, a civil rights activist, to push back against MLB's repudiation of a bill that will restrict voting.
Please keep my grandfather’s name out of your mouth https://t.co/VfSaFDWt3L
— Raynal Aaron (@Swats_44) April 2, 2021
Several other conservative voices also condemned MLB's decision, with some whipping out a China playbook that NBA fans will be familiar with:
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) April 2, 2021
Dear GOP:@MLB caves to pressure & moves draft & #AllStarGame out of Georgia on the same week they announce a deal with a company backed by the genocidal Communist Party of #China
Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & anti-trust? https://t.co/GWToVhAZvW
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 2, 2021
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) April 2, 2021
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 2, 2021
While Georgia politicians and conservative politicians lamented the move for various reasons, several other voices applauded MLB for taking a stand. That included NBA stars LeBron James, co-owner of the Boston Red Sox, and Magic Johnson, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, plus Derek Jeter, co-owner of the Miami Marlins.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 2, 2021
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!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 2, 2021
Good for the @MLB for standing by its values. The right to vote is sacred in this country, and the repeated efforts in Georgia to rollback voting rights and disenfranchise voters will not be tolerated. https://t.co/fLBGQ9S0oO
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 2, 2021
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 2, 2021
Excited to see an organization like the @MLB take a strong stance on voting rights and condemn the passage of the voter suppression bill #SB202 in Georgia. However, it is Congress who needs to stand up and take a stance against #votersupression.
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) April 2, 2021
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, an avid Dodgers fan, on Major League Baseball's decision to move All-Star game from Atlanta because of Georgia's recent voting laws pic.twitter.com/GQon2ypYu0
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 2, 2021
Meanwhile, there were a number of politicians outside the state of Georgia who took the opportunity to publicly lobby MLB to move the All-Star Game to their state or city, with all noting their support for voting rights. We'll see if MLB gives any of them a call.
Milwaukee in particular could be intriguing given that Aaron played the majority of his career in the city for the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee hasn't hosted the All-Star Game since 2002.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 2, 2021
Hey @MLB here in Baltimore we strongly support voting rights as do our beloved @orioles. We'd love to host the All Star game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards the ballpark that inspired them all. Remember how great it was the last time? https://t.co/yYD8sbodyV https://t.co/nSkXRGRNGc
— Brandon M. Scott (@MayorBMScott) April 2, 2021
Milwaukee’s mayor asking MLB to come to Milwaukee for the All Star Game pic.twitter.com/eG6TRZwePZ
— Matt Smith (@mattsmith_news) April 2, 2021
— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) April 2, 2021
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