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Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred right to pull MLB All-Star Game from Atlanta

MLB pulls All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest voter suppression

Somewhere in heaven John Lewis is smiling down on Rob Manfred. Surely so are Hank Aaron and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those men loved Atlanta, devoting much of their lives to lifting the people in The Big Peach.

I’m certain that Lewis, the Civil Rights icon and former congressman who encouraged his followers to make “good trouble,” would surely have been proud today. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has done the right thing, moving the 2021 All-Star Game and Draft away from Atlanta.

The decision was made to protest the voter suppression bills that have been passed in Georgia. I hope Manfred’s decision sends a message to Georgia and several other states pushing similar bills, including Texas. The All-Star Game weekend was scheduled for July at the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park, which is in the suburb of Cumberland in Cobb County.

The election process is fundamental to everything we do in our lives in America. Want good schools? Vote. Want better public safety? Vote. Want a new stadium for your beloved Astros or Atlanta Braves? Get your butt to the ballot box.

The Other Side: Former All-Star Russ Ortiz disappointed MLB moved Midsummer Classic.

Want Congress to pass stimulus bills to help people suffering from job losses during the pandemic? Well, get out to vote. That’s what happened in Georgia this past cycle when voters elected two Democratic Senators, tipping the balance of the Senate.

Georgia Republicans have responded with voter suppression legislation threatening to take us back to Jim Crow. Texas and a few other southern states are racing Georgia to the bottom in a quest to make it more difficult for people of color and poor Americans to vote.

Rob Manfred takes important stand

We all must speak out. Each and every one of us. 

We cannot afford to return to the evils of the Jim Crow era. We cannot let Georgia get away with its voter suppression law without using our economic muscle and a bit of John Lewis’ “Good Trouble” to punish those pushing for a return to Jim Crow. 

Manfred has done the right thing, and he should be commended.

“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. 

“We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process.  Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Elections matter.

We should encourage more American citizens to vote, not work to limit their access or intimidate them. It should never be a crime to provide water to voters standing in line.

We must be vigilant. If Georgia gets away with voter suppression, others will follow. With a majority, Republicans in the Texas Senate are pushing a similar bill. American Airlines has already spoken out against it. 

“I think everyone ought to speak out,” said John Whitmire, the dean of the Texas Senate. “From the smallest business owners to the largest corporate leaders, we must speak out. You have to use every tool in the toolbox to restore people’s voting rights. They did it in North Carolina, and they changed their policy on equality.”

Whitmire, a Democrat for Houston, spoke out this week about on the Texas Senate Floor against Senate Bill 7, which has also been criticized by American Airlines.

Following the lead of others

The NCAA pulled seven championships out of North Carolina in 2016, and the NBA pulled that year’s All-Star Game out of Charlotte to protest a HB2 law targeting gay and transgender rights. 

It’s important for Americans to push back against those who are trying to suppress voting rights. 

Manfred and MLB took a tremendous step, stripping Georgia of a jewel event that would have brought millions to Atlanta and the Peach State.

“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities,” Manfred said. “In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward.  We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”

The Rangers and Astros need not apply until Texas puts an end to its own voter suppression bill.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

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