The divisive new law, which was signed last week by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), enacts a set of sweeping voting changes that critics say would restrict access to the ballot. It imposes new identification requirements for mail-in ballots and makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line, among other measures.
As dozens of GOP-led state legislatures across the country consider similar restrictions on the casting and counting of ballots, the Georgia bill has emerged as an early flash point in the partisan war over voting rights — pulling in plenty of figures from outside state houses.
Some of the largest companies based in the Peach State, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, have spoken out against the law in recent days after the firms faced criticism for not publicly opposing it before the law passed. Most major Hollywood studios, which have a large production presence in the Atlanta area, have remained noticeably quiet.
Now, with MLB’s All-Star Game set to be played at Atlanta’s Truist Park in July, eyes are turning to world of sports.
Several big names in the MLB have called for the league to discuss moving the game out of Georgia. Among those is Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association, who said that players were “very much aware” of the new law.
“We have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation,” Clark told the Boston Globe last week.
As Biden sat down for an interview on “SportsCenter” the night before Opening Day, co-host Sage Steele asked the president about Clark’s comments.
He pointed in response to the NBA, which has seen many of its top stars, including LeBron James, embracing the Black Lives Matter movement and other sociopolitical issues.
“Look at what’s happened across the board,” said Biden, a Phillies fan. “The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it’s just not right.”
Georgia’s new law also expands early-voting hours; limits the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters; blocks the use of mobile voting vans; and keeps local governments from directly accepting private-sector grants.
Republicans have boosted the law after former president Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud in six states he lost, including Georgia. Other GOP-majority legislatures around the country are considering similar measures.
But Democrats as well as voting-rights advocates have said the bill would cut off ballot access for many Georgia voters, particularly those in larger counties with significant Black populations.
Biden echoed those criticisms on ESPN, saying, “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that he and Clark have discussed the possibility of moving the game out of Atlanta, but did not indicate when he would make a decision.
“I am talking to various constituencies within the game and I’m just not going beyond that in terms of what I would consider or not consider,” Manfred told the Associated Press on Wednesday.