Request to return All-Star game to Atlanta gets court hearing Thursday

All-Star game patch adorns the jersey of  outfielder Ronald Acuna during the first full squad workout Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. The patch was removed from the Braves' uniforms after the league moved the game from Atlanta.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
All-Star game patch adorns the jersey of outfielder Ronald Acuna during the first full squad workout Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. The patch was removed from the Braves' uniforms after the league moved the game from Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The debate over Major League Baseball’s move of next month’s All-Star game out of Atlanta will reach a courtroom in New York on Thursday afternoon.

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction blocking the game’s move to Denver and returning it to Truist Park. The injunction is being sought by conservative small-business advocacy group Job Creators Network (JCN), which last week filed a lawsuit over MLB’s early-April decision to relocate the game in response to Georgia’s new voting law.

In separate court filings Monday, MLB called the suit “political theatrics,” and the MLB Players Association called it “frivolous” and an “abuse of the judicial process.” Both argued that an injunction should be denied and the game played in Denver.

“The Founding Fathers did not bestow upon American cities the right to an MLB All-Star Game,” Players Association lawyers wrote.

Job Creators Network, in a legal brief filed Tuesday, insisted it’s not too late for the July 13 event to be returned to metro Atlanta by the court. JCN’s attorney, Howard Kleinhendler, wrote that the organization shouldn’t have to tell MLB that “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

“As long as the All-Star game remains to be played, and it is still five weeks away, it still could be played in Atlanta,” JCN argued.

The court “can demonstrate that there are federal Constitutional rights afforded to all Americans, including small business owners in Atlanta,” JCN’s filing stated.

The logo for the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is revealed on the scoreboard before a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)
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The logo for the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is revealed on the scoreboard before a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Job Creators Network also argued that Denver would have “no room to complain about the game going back to Atlanta” because Colorado “actively sought out the game” rather than “standing side by side” with Georgians “victimized by the MLB.”

The lawsuit against MLB, Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, the MLB Players Association and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The headquarters of both MLB and the union are located in Manhattan. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni ordered Thursday’s hearing.

MLB argued in its response to the lawsuit that Job Creators Network lacks standing to seek an injunction and, even if it had standing, cannot meet its burden of demonstrating a “clear” or “substantial” likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, “because all of its claims are legally defective.” MLB requoted an earlier statement by Manfred that MLB “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

The lawsuit, which contends Georgia businesses will suffer “staggering” losses from the move of the game, seeks $1.1 billion in damages, including $1 billion in punitive damages.

Job Creators Network, based in Addison, Texas, was founded in 2010 “by entrepreneurs like The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus,” according to the organization’s website.