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MLB All-Star Game to move out of Atlanta in wake of Georgia’s voting-restriction legislation

Truist Park was scheduled to host the 2021 MLB All-Star Game.John Amis/Associated Press

Major League Baseball took a bold step Friday against recent voter suppression legislation in Georgia by moving this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

A new host city will be announced shortly, but according to commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB “decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport” was to get the game, as well as the amateur draft, out of Georgia.

The decision came a little more than a week after Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark told the Globe the players were “very much aware” of the Georgia voting bill and they would look forward to having a talk with MLB about making the move.

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Those conversations took place, said Manfred, who said he had engaged in “thoughtful conversations” with the MLBPA, The Players Alliance — which is a newly formed group of past and current Black professional ballplayers — the ballclubs, and other former and present players.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after Friday’s Opening Day loss he wanted to learn more about the matter but that MLB “moved it for the right reasons.”

Georgia governor Brian Kemp lashed out at a “knee-jerk decision” that meant “cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. . . . This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from [President] Joe Biden and [former US Representative] Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections.”

In a statement, the Atlanta Braves said they were “deeply disappointed.” The team said it will “continue to stress the importance of voting rights,” but that MLB dashed its hope to “enhance the discussion” while the All-Star Game was in town.

“Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision,” the Braves said.

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MLB’s move came on the heels of Biden telling ESPN that he supported moving the game, followed by strong statements from the chief executive officers of Georgia corporate giants Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola.

“Look at what’s happened across the board. The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it’s just not right,” Biden said. “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”

He also commended MLB players for standing up against the legislation.

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly,” Biden said. “I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They’re leaders.”

Power to pull the game out of Atlanta rested ultimately with Manfred. The players’ union had not yet completed canvassing its membership about the matter and was not notified of Manfred’s decision before he made the announcement.

Lisa Cupid, commissioner of Cobb County, Ga., where the game was to be played at the Braves’ Truist Park, met with Clark virtually Wednesday evening.

LeBron James, new part-owner of the Red Sox and who launched the “More Than A Vote” organization, said on Twitter: “Proud to call myself a part of the MLB family today.”

In a tweet, Dodgers part-owner and former Laker Magic Johnson said, “I want to applaud and extend a thank you to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for moving the All Star Game out of Georgia following the Governor’s signing of the new restrictive voting law. Way to be a leader and take a strong stance!”

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Reaction on the conservative side of the political spectrum was strongly negative.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “Republicans in Congress should immediately move to repeal the MLB’s anti-trust exemption. Grow some [expletive] and fight fire with fire.”

In her tweet, right-wing firebrand Laura Ingraham called the decision “disgusting.”

“MLB will feel this and so, sadly, will Georgia,” Ingraham tweeted.

In 2016, the NBA decided to move its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, N.C., a reaction to a bill enacted by the state that limited anti-discrimination protections. In explaining the decision, the league said it was acting on its “longstanding core values,” which “include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness, and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.”

Full text of Manfred’s statement

“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views. I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 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.

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“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities. In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”

Katie McInerney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.