Major League Baseball will relocate the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft, originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, to Denver.
The decision comes a little more than a week after the passage of S.B. 202, a Georgia law that President Joe Biden criticized, saying that it will restrict voting access for residents of the state.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that the decision to move the All-Star Game was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport” and was made after consultation with teams, former and current players, the MLB Players Association and The Players Alliance, among others.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said. “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.”
Though the game will no longer take place in Atlanta, the 2021 Midsummer Classic (scheduled for Tuesday, July 13) will still celebrate the memory of the late Hank Aaron, an Atlanta icon who passed away on Jan. 22. MLB will also move forward with planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of the All-Star Legacy Projects.
The Draft is slated to be held in July for the first time in 2021, scheduled for July 11-13 in conjunction with the All-Star Game festivities.
“We are finalizing a new host city, and details about these events will be announced shortly,” Manfred said.
The Players Alliance issued a statement in support of the decision, saying: “We want to make our voice heard loud and clear in our opposition of the recent Georgia legislation that not only disproportionately disenfranchises the Black community, but also paves the way for other states to pass similarly harmful laws based largely on widespread falsehoods and disinformation.
“While we will support those in need in whichever city the game is ultimately relocated to, we will also uphold our commitment to those Georgians we’ve already planned to serve. We will use our voice, our platform, and our partnerships now more than ever to create real, tangible change for the Black community to stand up for every American’s right to vote.
“We will not be silenced. We won’t back down in the fight for racial equity. We will never stop breaking barriers to the ballot box.”
MLB’s decision is not without precedent among the major sports.
In the summer of 2016, the NBA moved the location of its 2017 All-Star Game (held the following February) from Charlotte to New Orleans in objection to North Carolina House Bill 2, which limited anti-discrimination protections in the state.
In March 1991, NFL owners voted to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix to Pasadena, Calif., after Arizona voters elected not to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a paid holiday. Arizona eventually recognized MLK Day and was awarded a Super Bowl in 1996 and again in 2008.
Where MLB’s decision differs from those aforementioned moves is the timing. The All-Star Game planning is a multi-year process, so the decision to change the location three months in advance affords the league limited time to adjust.
Georgia’s law includes a number of elements that will make it harder to vote, including strict ID requirements for absentee ballots and limiting access to ballot drop-boxes. In criticizing the law, President Biden said that it is “a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” adding that provisions of S.B. 202 “effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters.”
This was to have been the first All-Star Game held in Atlanta since 2000 and the first at Truist Park, which opened in 2017.