Baseball fans in Truist Park were focused on a pivotal Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night, but many in attendance also had their eye on a former president taking in the game.
Donald Trump waved to enthusiastic supporters from a suite at the stadium before the game, and he and former first lady Melania Trump even did the tomahawk chop for the home team.
Earlier Saturday, Trump had confirmed his plans to attend when he said he was looking forward to attending a “wonderful” World Series game in Atlanta.
He was joined in the suite by other political allies, including Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
Trump’s visit is sure to bring attention to his ongoing feud with Major League Baseball in the midst of the Braves’ first appearance in the championship round in decades. The former president had called on supporters to spurn the sport after the league yanked the All-Star game from Georgia in protest of the state’s new voting law.
In a statement, Trump didn’t offer any hint at the past tension. He thanked Rob Manfred, the league’s commissioner, along with New York Yankees team president Randy Levine for the invite. He added that he and his wife, Melania, “are looking forward to a wonderful evening watching two great teams.”
It’s not clear whether Manfred invited Trump to the event. Braves chief executive Terry McGuirk told USA Today earlier this week that Trump called the league to request tickets to attend Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros.
”We were very surprised. Of course, we said yes,” he told USA Today, adding: “We are apolitical. We’re open to anyone coming. It’s great that he wants to come to our game.”
The split between the former president and America’s pastime deepened in April after Georgia’s Republican-led Legislature rewrote the state’s election laws.
The law includes a new ID requirement for mail-in votes, curbs the use of ballot drop boxes and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more power over local elections. It also bans outside groups from handing out food and water to voters in lines and expands weekend voting in some rural counties.
Under pressure from players and politicians — President Joe Biden even endorsed a boycott of the game — Manfred decided to shift the event to Denver. Trump quickly called on his supporters to “boycott baseball” and other Republican officials lashed out at the league.
Though many state Democrats also assailed the league’s decision, it became a rallying cry for Republicans who say fearmongering from critics of the law deprived metro Atlanta of a premier event.
Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to repeated falsehoods about widespread voter fraud promoted by Trump and his allies that paved the way for the election restrictions.
Manfred defended the decision in a press conference on Tuesday.
“We always have tried to be apolitical,” he said. “Obviously there was a notable exception this year. I think our desire is to try to avoid another exception to that general rule. We have a fan base that’s diverse, has different points of view and we’d like to keep the focus on the field, on the game.”
Opponents of the law have brought eight separate legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed in June by the U.S. Justice Department. And it has divided Georgia’s corporate world, spurring Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines to publicly oppose the overhaul.
Trump wasn’t the only politician at Truist. Walker, a former Georgia football star and close ally of Trump, joined the former president. And Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, one of Trump’s most vocal critics, also was expected to be at the game.
This won’t be Trump’s first visit to Atlanta for a championship sporting event. He attended the college football title game between Georgia and Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2018 and was greeted with a chorus of cheers mixed in with boos as he took the field. He left shortly before halftime.