NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Gov. Brian Kemp said at a press conference Saturday that Major League Baseball “caved to fear” following its decision Friday to removed Atlanta as host of the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB draft in response to Georgia’s new controversial voting rights law.
“MLB caved to fear, lies of liberal activists and ignored the facts of the new election integrity law. MLB didn’t cite a single reason why they are moving,” Kemp said. “If we were making it less easy to vote and harder to cheat then maybe there’s an argument for boycotts, protests, and moving All-Star games. That is not what happened. Georgia is going to have secure and very accessible elections.”
Kemp promoted the election bill and told the public he is not backing down. Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr and Congressman Drew Ferguson joined the conference.
“I want to be clear, I will not be backing down from this fight,” Kemp said. “We will not be intimidated and we will also not be silenced. MLB, Delta, and Coca-Cola might be afraid of Biden and the left but we are not.”
MLB had awarded the game to Atlanta’s Truist Park on May 29, 2019, and the game was scheduled for July 13 as part of baseball’s midsummer break that includes the Futures Game on July 11 and Home Run Derby the following night. But Commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft, which had been scheduled to be held in Atlanta for the first time.
“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. 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,” Manfred said in a statement.
The new location of the All-Star Game has not been set yet.
MLB’s announcement came eight days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.
Manfred made the decision after discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association, individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year.
“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,” Manfred said in a statement. “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 game’s unwavering support,” Manfred said.
Kemp issued the following statements regarding the MLB’s decision:
“Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies. Georgians – and all Americans – should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.
This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections. I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections. Earlier today, I spoke with the leadership of the Atlanta Braves who informed me they do not support the MLB’s decision.”
“The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Major League Baseball to move its’ 2021 All Star Game,” the team said in a statement released Friday.
The statement posted on the Braves’ Twitter account said “this was neither our decision, nor our recommendation.”
“We are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.”
Other sports have moved high-profile events because of social issues.
In the early 1990s, the NFL shifted the Super Bowl out of Arizona after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday.
The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, when the league took issue with a state law that cut anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The NCAA for years didn’t hold championships in states where the Confederate battle flag was officially recognized.
This year’s All-Star Game will include honoring Hank Aaron, the Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.
“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.”
MLB canceled last year’s All-Star Game, which had been scheduled for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, due to the late and shortened season caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 game will be played at Dodger Stadium.
MLB has awarded the 2026 All-Star Game to Philadelphia as part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The 1972 All-Star Game was played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the 2000 All-Star Game was at Atlanta’s Turner Field.