NBA star LeBron James, left-wing sportswriters and other prominent liberal figures celebrated Major League Baseball‘s stunning decision Friday to pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new voting laws.
Earlier this week, President Biden said he would support MLB moving the Midsummer Classic due to his opposition to what he called “Jim Crow on steroids,” Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday he would do so as “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
James praised the move and said he was “proud to call myself a part of the MLB family today.” The Los Angeles Lakers star often speaks out on domestic issues but has been reticent to comment on repression in China, where the NBA has a significant business interest.
“I salute MLB pulling the All Star game out of Atlanta, due to repressive State Voting laws,” MSNBC host Al Sharpton tweeted. “Now they’ve decided to play ball on the right side of history.”
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp issued a scathing statement accusing MLB of caving to “liberal lies” about the bill. The league is also moving this year’s amateur draft out of Georgia, and has not announced where either event will now be held.
The Georgia legislation has been the subject of much criticism and misinformation, with Biden falsely claiming it limited early voting hours. Progressives have slammed it for measures such as limiting the time to apply for absentee ballots and shortening the runoff period, while conservatives have pointed to expanded early voting days and absentee ballot verification measures they say will protect election integrity and confidence.
Left-wing sports website Deadspin praised MLB for moving the game.
“Major League Baseball is not generally an organization that you’d think of as progressive, but Rob Manfred made a big move on Friday,” wrote Jesse Spector.
Washington Post national baseball reporter Chelsea Janes seemed to praise Manfred’s decision, calling it an example of “civil rights activism.”
“This is a big deal,” Janes wrote. “MLB hasn’t necessarily known as an early mover on civil rights activism. League’s willingness to apply pressure here is meaningful and demonstrates a changing tide.”
“Sports leagues will not be passive,” intoned ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen, who went on to recall that “[i]n 1991 the NFL removed [January] ’93 Super Bowl from Phoenix when Arizona voters failed to make Martin Luther King Jr Day a paid holiday.
The game would have been played in Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves since 2016. It’s located in metro Atlanta’s Cobb County, whose recent swing from red to blue helped Biden and Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to landmark victories in Georgia in the 2020 cycle.
The Braves slammed the decision in a statement, saying they were “saddened” their fans could not see the game in their home city and that “businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”
The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist who covers Atlanta sports, slammed the Braves for what he called the “mother of all tone-deaf statements.”
Not all liberals are thrilled by the move. Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said she was “disappointed” by MLB’s move while simultaneously praising the league for supporting voting rights, while Ossoff said Thursday he opposed any moves to boycott Georgia over the new voting law, such as moving the All-Star Game.