When sports and politics intersect, which they do far more than we care to admit, things often get strange. Take Major League Baseball’s rationale for moving this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.
The location change came in response to Georgia’s new voting law, which the MLB says is against its values. Georgia’s Republican-led overhaul, which supporters say expands some voters’ access to early voting, has been widely criticized as hampering access to absentee voting and disproportionately affecting minority communities.
The Atlanta Braves were anticipating the All-Star Game as a chance to show off their 4-year-old stadium and to honor Hank Aaron, the legendary Braves hitter who died in January. But those plans were derailed by the controversy over Georgia’s new law, which President Joe Biden labeled “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”
Such rhetoric is not only inaccurate, but it does little to advance any serious discussion on racial issues.
Lest we forget, Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. The laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968—were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education, or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence, and death. The change in the Georgia voting laws does none of those things.
The new Georgia law bans people from providing water to voters waiting in line, and it will allow state officials to take over local election offices. It also expands access to voting, secures ballot drop boxes around the clock in every Georgia county, expands weekend voting, protects no-excuse absentee voting. It levels the playing field on voter ID requirements and streamlines election procedures.
It doesn’t look all that radical. Even MLB requires fans to show photo ID to pick up tickets from a Will Call booth.
Earlier this spring, 21 prominent Black leaders, ranging from former Mayor Ken Blackwell and Heritage Foundation President Kay James to Dr. Alveda King and Col. Allen West (Ret.), sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee denouncing Democrats’ “despicable smear campaign” portraying Georgia’s new election integrity law as a return to Jim Crow. Here are some excerpts.
“It has become clear that even well-intentioned critics of the law simply have no idea what the law is. It is clear they have no idea how favorably Georgia’s new law compares with most other states – including President Biden’s home state of Delaware.
“Critics of the law have substituted passion for reason, hysteria for judgment,” the Black leaders wrote, slamming the ‘despicable smear campaign’ and attacks against the law and its supporters — punishing the very people they claim to champion.
“Political agendas that have nothing to do with enhancing election security and voter access are involved.
“They have tarred with the brush of racism people whose only sin is a desire for confidence in our elections,” the Black leaders told the senators.
“And it is clear they have no idea that a majority of Black voters across the country support the key provision under attack by critics – the simple requirement that voters be able to identify themselves when voting. This is the same simple requirement needed to pick up baseball tickets or board a plane — activities hardly as important as voting.”
So MLB, falsely concerned about a state that has presumably returned to Jim Crow laws, overreacted and moved this month’s All-Star Game from Atlanta, a city with 51% of the population who are Black or African American, to Denver, which is 69% White and only 10% Black or African American. That sounds more racist than leaving the game in Atlanta.
Most of the sports world supported the decision to move the MLB All-Star Game out of Atlanta, but others were disgruntled by the politically charged change.
A lot of states are far more restrictive on voting than Georgia. Will MLB pull out of New York and California? As former Gov. Mike Huckabee tweeted: “Rename All-Star Game ‘Forrest Gump Game’ b/c stupid is as stupid does and MLB is just plain stupid.”