Ga.’s voting law fuels more talk of pulling MLB All-Star game from Cobb County

President Joe Biden talks about his infrastructure plan at the Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, March, 31 2021. President Biden appeared in western Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon to unveil his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, a far-reaching proposal that he will seek to pay for with a substantial increase in corporate taxes. Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)
President Joe Biden talks about his infrastructure plan at the Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, March, 31 2021. President Biden appeared in western Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon to unveil his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, a far-reaching proposal that he will seek to pay for with a substantial increase in corporate taxes. Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

The push to move Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Georgia has gathered momentum after several large corporations condemned the state’s new voting law and President Joe Biden said he would “strongly support” relocating the event.

Biden’s remarks were broadcast to a national television audience Wednesday evening during an interview with ESPN.

Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, also a Democrat and the highest elected official in the metro-Atlanta county scheduled to host the Midsummer Classic in July, said on Thursday that the president hadn’t taken into account the financial well-being of the people who helped propel him into office five months ago.

“While we are both frustrated by the recently-enacted elections legislation, the President’s remarks concerning moving Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Cobb County sends an unfortunate message to those residents and businesses here who have supported him,” Cupid said in a statement Thursday.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who last week signed a sweeping, 98-page elections law, vowed to not cave to corporate pressure. Kemp told Fox News on Thursday that Biden’s effort to move the All-Star Game was ‘ridiculous” and urged the president to focus on his home state of Delaware, which does not yet allow in-person early voting, as Georgia does.

The new law has been widely condemned by voting rights advocates for unfairly targeting traditionally disenfranchised voters and caused MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark to say that players were ready to discuss playing the All-Star Game in another state.

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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has subsequently started talks with Clark and others around baseball about the possibility.

“I completely understand why [Clark] would want to have a conversation about this topic,” Manfred said in a Wednesday interview with The Associated Press. “We’ve actually had a preliminary kind of conversation, and there will be more substantive conversations about that.

“I am talking to various constituencies within the game, and I’m just not going beyond that in terms of what I would consider or not consider,” Manfred said.

Cupid met virtually with Clark on Wednesday before she had learned of Biden’s comments.

A county spokesman said that Cupid, the first African American woman elected to her position, described the meeting as fruitful but the two agreed to not comment publicly about the details of their discussion.

County businesses stand to lose tens of millions dollars in projected revenue from fans visiting Cobb for the game, although economists have told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the financial impact of sporting events is often statistically insignificant.

“I would be open to a discussion with the President and others about alternative actions that would channel our frustration into an opportunity to use this event as a chance to openly discuss this legislation, voter participation, and inclusion and then find an applicable response,” Cupid said in her statement.

Braves officials declined to comment on Thursday.

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Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said Thursday, several hours before the Braves’ season opener, that whether to move the game out of Atlanta is “a conversation to be had,” but he personally prefers keeping the event at Truist Park

“I think it’d be better to keep it and use a platform,” Freeman said.

MLB formally awarded the 2021 All-Star game to Atlanta during a May 2019 announcement ceremony at Truist Park (then named SunTrust Park). Kemp participated in that announcement, saying at the time: “Georgia got another big win here today.” The Braves had been lobbying MLB to bring the event here since the Cobb County stadium opened in 2017.

Baseball’s All-Star game has been held in Atlanta twice previously – in 1972 at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) and in 2000 at Turner Field.

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Similar pieces of voting legislation are being considered in other states with Republican-controlled capitols following the election last year that gave Democrats control of the White House and U. S. Senate. Georgia, and particularly Cobb, a county with a growing population and changing demographics, proved to be important battlegrounds in the Democrats’ victory.

Georgia State Senate Bill 202 adds restrictions to absentee and early voting, more stringent voter identification requirements and prohibitions on non-election workers handing out water or food to people in line at the polls.

Biden’s interview with ESPN occurred as several large companies denounced the new voting rules, including two Atlanta corporations who were threatened with boycotts for not speaking out loudly enough earlier. Delta Air Lines’ and Coca Cola’s CEOs within hours of each other on Wednesday condemned the law as “unacceptable.”

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