Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from vote-limited Atlanta earns him some forgiveness for the daffy free-runner-on-second-base in extra innings fiasco.
The Commish–that’s what Bowie Kuhn used to call himself—took a week or so to consider his options after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation targeting voter rights. Then Manfred dropped the hammer, using baseball’s clout to punish Atlanta.
Gov. Kemp was outraged at baseball for daring to flex its muscles at him. Maybe, though, not as outraged as prominent black players like Mookie Betts, who might be the best player in the game, might have felt playing in a state that limited the rights of people of color to exercise the basic American right to vote. Or Giancarlo Stanton, a four-time All-Star and 2017 National League MVP. Or Tim Anderson, 2019 American League batting champion, Or David Price a five-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner.
Kemp’s law required new identification for absentee voting, reduced the number of voter drop boxes, impacted mail-in ballots and, perhaps most outrageously, made it a crime to supply food or water to voters waiting on hours-long lines created by his rules.
This in a state where Henry Aaron, a Black American, became baseball’s all-time home run king and was celebrated as a hero in Kemp’s state of Georgia. Major League Baseball had insisted that Aaron, who died in January, be a focus of the All-Star Week in Atlanta or wherever it is ultimately played.
It should be noted that when Atlanta was bidding to import the Braves from Milwaukee –some might say hijack– in 1965, Aaron was the team’s star and was quickly embraced by the town despite the color of his skin. Also, the city had to agree to integrate seating in Fulton County Stadium as part of the deal. Gov. Kemp was two years old at the time, and apparently unable to weigh in on that dramatic concession by the city fathers.
MLB was not the first business in Georgia to weigh in negatively on Gov. Kemp’s new rules. Corporate giants Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, both headquartered in the state, complained about them first and probably played a part in Manfred’s decision.
It is estimated that moving the All-Star Game will have a $100 million economic impact on the city of Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Most of the Black All-Stars like Betts, who will be playing the game somewhere else, make more than that.