Major League Baseball's decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta has triggered a vocal political response from both sides, including one GOP congressman announcing plans to go after the league's bottom line in retaliation.
MLB announced the move on Thursday, citing its support for voting rights in light of Georgia's recently passed voter restriction law. The league said the decision was made after conversations with its clubs, players and the MLB Players Association.
The new site of the 2021 All-Star Game is not yet known, but MLB said it is finalizing a new host city with details to come shortly.
While there was clearly support around the league to move the game, the Atlanta Braves, who were set to host the game at Truist Park, soon released a statement expressing their dismay. The team said that while it recognizes the importance of equal voting opportunities, it lamented the economic cost for local businesses and employees.
While several politicians were quick to make their thoughts known about MLB's decision, Rep. Jeff Duncan, who represents South Carolina's third district in the U.S. House of Representatives, took things a step further by announcing that he has instructed his staff to draft legislation to remove MLB's antitrust exemption.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted his support for Duncan's idea, questioning why MLB has antitrust immunity at all.
What is MLB's antitrust exemption?
MLB's antitrust exemption dates back to 1922, when the Supreme Court ruled that federal antitrust laws do not apply to baseball. In the century since that ruling, MLB has used that status to maintain an iron grip on the sport while hardballing business partners and employees, such as severely underpaid minor leaguers. The NFL, NBA and other leagues in the U.S. do not enjoy the same benefits, though none of those leagues have a minor league system on the scale of MLB's in which the exemption does most of its work.
Obviously, MLB losing its antitrust exemption could do significant damage to its bottom line, though it would be an enormous win for the players union that was seemingly in favor of moving the All-Star Game.
Politicians, and LeBron James, react to MLB moving All-Star Game
Politicians across Georgia were quick to respond to MLB's decision. Key figures on both sides of the aisle lamented the loss for the state, though GOP politicians were obviously harsher with their reactions.
While former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler claimed MLB decided against honoring Braves legend Hank Aaron, MLB said in its statement that it still planned to honor Aaron's memory during All-Star festivities no matter the location.
Aaron's grandson Raynal Aaron also signaled that he didn't appreciate Loeffler using the memory of his grandfather, a civil rights activist, to push back against MLB's repudiation of a bill that will restrict voting.
Several other conservative voices also condemned MLB's decision, with some whipping out a China playbook that NBA fans will be familiar with:
While Georgia politicians and conservative politicians lamented the move for various reasons, several other voices applauded MLB for taking a stand. That included NBA stars LeBron James, co-owner of the Boston Red Sox, and Magic Johnson, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, plus Derek Jeter, co-owner of the Miami Marlins.
Meanwhile, there were a number of politicians outside the state of Georgia who took the opportunity to publicly lobby MLB to move the All-Star Game to their state or city, with all noting their support for voting rights. We'll see if MLB gives any of them a call.
Milwaukee in particular could be intriguing given that Aaron played the majority of his career in the city for the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee hasn't hosted the All-Star Game since 2002.
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