The Republican governor of the US state of Georgia has slammed Major League Baseball (MLB) after the league announced it would relocate this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft over the state’s new restrictive voting law.
Signed late last month, the legislation disproportionately disenfranchises Black voters in Georgia, which has a history of racial discrimination – and it has drawn widespread rebuke from local communities, rights advocates, legislators and companies.
“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,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement on Friday. The events had been scheduled to take place in Atlanta.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
On Saturday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp hit back, saying the state would defend the legislation in court. The Republican leader accused the MLB of caving “to fear and lies from liberal activists”.
“I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight. We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced,” said Kemp, who also criticised US corporations who have backed the MLB’s move.
Coca-Cola Co and Delta Airlines last week joined a bid by US companies to challenge the new voting rules, which impose stricter ID requirements, limit ballot drop boxes, and make it a misdemeanour for people to offer food and water to voters waiting in line, among other measures.
Civil rights groups in Georgia have filed a civil lawsuit against the legislation, while US President Joe Biden has called the restrictions “an atrocity” and “a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience”.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC, said on Saturday that other US states, such as Texas and Florida, are contemplating similar voting legislation. The difference, he said, is that corporations have already come out against those prospective laws.
“This is something that is having a major national impact, that doesn’t just concern Georgia it appears,” Hanna said.