Cardboard cutouts of fans in the otherwise empty seats face...

Cardboard cutouts of fans in the otherwise empty seats face the field during the sixth inning of a game between Atlanta and the Rays in Atlanta on July 30, 2020. Credit: AP/John Amis

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday that this summer’s All-Star Game will be moved out of Truist Park, home of Atlanta’s baseball franchise, in response to Georgia’s recent legislation targeting voter rights, which included restrictions on casting ballots by mail and other electoral procedures.

President Joe Biden spoke in favor of MLB’s potential move Wednesday during an ESPN interview, shortly after he blasted the new laws as "Jim Crow on steroids," and MLB had been mulling over the decision in the days leading up to the start of the season. The All-Star Game, which was scheduled forJuly 13, actually includes nearly a weeklong series of events, including the popular Futures Game and Home Run Derby, and this year’s amateur draft also was pulled from the state.

MLB has yet to name a replacement host city, but New York does not appear to be on the short list of contenders at this stage, according to a source. Last year’s All-Star Game, scheduled for Dodger Stadium, was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been rescheduled there for 2022.

"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," Manfred said Friday in a statement. "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."

MLB annually celebrates Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 as a way for the sport to champion his legacy of racial equality, but Friday’s bold step was one of baseball’s more proactive measures to date. Manfred insisted that the late Hank Aaron, the Atlanta legend who passed away in January, will still be a central focus of this summer’s All-Star Game and MLB’s investment in those local communities would go on as planned.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month that the All-Star Game’s economic impact was expected to range from $37 million to $190 million, based on estimates provided by MLB, and Truist Park expected 100 percent capacity (41,000 fans) for the event.

The Atlanta franchise said in a statement that it is "deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its’ 2021 All-Star Game. This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. The 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.

"Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community. Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision. We will continue to support the community legacy projects which have been planned and are in process."

MLB becomes the latest sports organization to pull a major event from a city in order to condemn the action of local politicians. In 2017, the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans after North Carolina enacted laws discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Manfred’s predecessor, Bud Selig, opted not to remove the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix in the wake of Arizona’s new anti-immigration laws that year. But Friday’s decision ushers in a more progressive stance by MLB, and one that already has put it in the crosshairs of political opposition.

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