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After Major League Baseball announced it was pulling the All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the state’s election law, Sen. Mitch McConnell warned of “serious consequences.”
Baseball and Georgia election laws collided to fuel political turmoil this week as Republican state and congressional lawmakers pushed back against what they deemed “cancel culture.”
It started with Major League Baseball’s announcement that it would move this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta over opposition to the Georgia legislatures’ recent sweeping overhaul of election rules—a move President Biden said he’d “strongly support.”
That earned rebuke from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who said during a news conference over the weekend that the MLB had “caved to fear and lies from liberal activists.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell escalated the situation with a withering critique Monday that warned businesses they could face “serious consequences” if they use their economic power to support far-left causes.
“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” McConnell said in a statement issued Monday. “Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box.”
Georgia lawmakers passed legislation this year that makes numerous changes to how elections are administered—which includes requiring a photo ID requirement for mail-in absentee voting. Among the changes, the law requires absentee voters to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation to verify their identities and reduces the amount of time for early voting in runoff elections from three weeks to one week.
Georgia Republicans pushed for the passage, arguing that it was necessary to protect election integrity. Critics said it would restrict voting access.
Georgia backed President Biden during the 2020 elections, marking the first time a Democrat won the presidential election in the state since 1992. The close margin of victory became a target for former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in last year’s presidential contest.
State lawmakers across the country have proposed a wave of election reform bills since the 2020 elections, which drastically expanded voter access through absentee and early voting options during the coronavirus pandemic and saw unprecedented voter turnout as a result. Legislators have introduced more than 360 bills that restrict voter access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal think tank. Texas, Georgia and Arizona have seen the largest number of restrictive election bills introduced.
To establish national baselines for voting rules and to override some state-level proposals, Democrats in Congress are pushing to pass sweeping election reform legislation. McConnell said Democrats are pushing “disinformation” about state-approved election laws like Georgia’s in order to build the support necessary to pass the voting reform law, known as H.R. 1.
“This power grab is impossible to defend, so the left wants to deflect,” McConnell said, who also took a swing at the companies that have backed liberal policies. “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves.”
The MLB’s decision is poised for future fallout in GOP-led states. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote to the MLB Monday to say he would no longer throw out the first pitch at the opening Texas Rangers game and would not seek to host any future All-Star games in the state as a result of the decision.
“It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan political politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives,” Abbott wrote.
But boycotts and travel bans by professional sports organizations and other groups in protest of state laws are nothing new. In 2017, North Carolina scrapped its controversial “bathroom bill,” a year after it was passed, citing boycotts that had cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The law required transgender people to use the bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.