ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s summer All-Star Game on Friday over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics — including the CEOs of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola — have condemned as being too restrictive.
The decision to pull the July 13 game from Atlanta’s Truist Park amounts to the first economic backlash against Georgia for the voting law that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed into law March 25.
Critics of the legislation say it will restrict voter access and disproportionately affects people of color. In a Wednesday interview with ESPN, President Joe Biden voiced his support to move the MLB All-Star Game and draft out of Atlanta.
“This is all about keeping working folks and ordinary folks that I grew up with from being able to vote,” Biden said.
The 98-page bill places new restrictions on mail-in voting and other absentee balloting efforts. It also gives greater legislative control over how elections are run and even bans the distribution of food and water to people standing in line to vote.
Crystal Greer, the founder of #ProtectTheVoteGA, says it’s a voter suppression tactic with the potential to restrict voting access for people of color.
“We’re asking that the governor repeal this bill because it does disenfranchise Black voters,” Greer said.
Greer and her organization are pushing for a repeal.
“When we’re doing all we can as constituents by emailing our representatives, protesting 25 days straight, making phone calls,” Greer said. “You’re now pushing us in the corner to now have to pull back our money, pull back our dollar cause that is the last power play we have.”
Corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola, both headquartered in Atlanta, initially declined to take a position, they both later changed course.
“We’re starting to see a lot of corporations finally speak out, unfortunately after the bill was passed,” Greer said.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian labeled the law “unacceptable,” while Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey called the legislation a “step backward.”
Bishop Reginald Jackson, who presides over more than 400 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, said too many corporate leaders have been “silent” on voting laws. He has called for his 90,000 parishioners to boycott Delta, Coca-Cola and other major brands.
“This is not just a Georgia issue or problem. It is a national problem that we believe puts our democracy at risk,” Jackson said.
The same situation could play out in other states; similar laws are working their way through legislative sessions in Texas and Arizona.
“When you see, unfortunately, a state like Georgia successfully pass a law like that, it does encourage other people in leadership in other states to follow suit,” Greer said.
Kemp called the MLB’s decision a “knee-jerk decision” that means “cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.”
“This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from (President) Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections,” Kemp said in a statement, referring to the Democratic candidate whom he narrowly defeated in the 2018 election. “I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said she supports MLB’s decision. Atlanta will no doubt share in the economic loss, though the Braves’ home stadium is now located outside the city, in suburban Cobb County.
“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.
The Atlanta Braves issued a statement Friday saying the team is disappointed by the MLB’s decision.
“We are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said. “The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion.”
A new ballpark for the events wasn’t immediately revealed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report