TURES COLUMN: Why All-Star game shouldn’t be moved

Published 11:15 am Friday, April 2, 2021

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The word is out that the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) may try to pressure professional baseball to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta. Similar stress is on the golf world to move The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta. Advocates of both moves cite the North Carolina Bathroom Bill case as a “successful” example. But North Carolina case failed to accomplish its goals. There’s a far better way Major League Baseball and Professional Golf can actually challenge this bad election bill, and a boycott or moving the sports is the wrong way.

First of all, I agree with critics of the elections bill. According to CNN, the bill has “measures that will allow any Georgian to lodge an unlimited number of challenges to voter registrations and eligibility, saying it could put a target on voters of color.” The legislature also took away the rights of Georgians to vote for the top elections officer, replacing it with their own ability to appoint those in charge of elections. The state can now take away the rights of a county to run the election, substituting their own version of control. And there are more limits on drop boxes and voting days, as well as the criminalization of giving out food and water at polling places.

But a boycott of baseball is the wrong idea. The Atlanta Braves games are one of the best places in Georgia where all kinds of people cheer on their diverse team. Taking this from supportive fans who have waited 21 years for such an event would lead to bitter feelings in a Democratic stronghold, not what you want if positive change is your goal. And the PGA and Masters made a “commitment to diversify golf and address racial inequities,” according to Yahoo Sports.

Supporters of the boycott idea cite the Bathroom Bill, and claim the removal of the NBA Game from Charlotte did the trick. The facts don’t support that. It all started when Charlotte passed a progressive bill for transgender people. The North Carolina legislature responded in 2016 with a harsh HB2 bathroom bill, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte in response, thereby punishing the city which had passed the progressive bill in the first place, which did nothing to stop the rural-based GOP NC legislature.

Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper defeated Gov. McCrory in 2016, but that’s because he was a better candidate. The North Carolina legislature remained in Republican hands. A compromise bill was passed in 2017, but not a full-blown repeal (to the dismay of LGBTQ advocates), though the All-Star Game returned to Charlotte in 2019. It merely delayed the issue until 2020. Cooper won reelection, but just the other day, the North Carolina legislature issued yet another anti-transgender bill, showing no evidence of “learning” from the NBA boycott.

Major League Baseball and the Masters’ Tournament can make a big splash in the media and remove the events from Atlanta and Augusta, and fail to accomplish anything positive in the Peach State.  Or, both can be smart, and use this as an opportunity to conduct the biggest voter registration drive. If both pro sports organizations care about Georgia voters, they will allow voting rights groups to educate sports fans on how the bill hurts all Georgia voters, and allow opponents of the bill to fundraise for reform. There’s no time for a stop the law this session.

The only thing that’s going to lead to a repeal of this bill that targets Georgia voters and voting rights groups is a new group of legislators, who can pass a legal repeal of the law in 2023. And the NBA All-Star Boycott in Charlotte is a cautionary tale, not a shining example; it should not be repeated. If MLB and pro golf care about headlines, they will move their events. If both care about Georgia voters, they will help register all voters, educate others, and help players and fans donate to voting groups to challenge this election bill in the courts and General Assembly.