ATLANTA - Major League Baseball has announced it is relocating the 2021 All-Star Game to All-Star Game to Denver's Coors Field after pulling the game from Atlanta in response to Georgia's controversial voting law.
"We appreciate their flexibility and enthusiasm to deliver a first-class event for our game and the region," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "We look forward to celebrating our sport’s best players and entertaining fans around the world."
The game was scheduled for July 13 at Truist Park, the Braves’ 41,000-seat stadium in suburban Cobb County. It would have been the third time Atlanta serves as host, having previously held the event in 1972 and 2000, but would have been the first time in their new stadium that opened in 2017.
Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year, the commissioner said in a statement. A new ballpark for the events wasn’t immediately revealed.
Manfred said he also spoke with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which at the time of the commissioner’s decision said it had still not taken a stance.
Manfred said despite the change of venue, MLB still plans to use the All-Star Game this year to honor Hank Aaron, the Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.
Georgia’s new voting law — which critics say unfairly limits access to the ballot box, especially for people of color has prompted calls from as high as the White House to consider moving the midsummer classic out of Atlanta.
The new law has faced harsh criticism and backlash prompting a series of boycotts on Georgia-based products such as Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot, not to mention dozens of legal challenges already filed and pending.
The 98-page "Election Integrity Act of 2021" was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on the evening of March 25, just a few hours after it was approved by the Georgia General Assembly. Kemp has vowed to defend the measure, and other Republicans have criticized MLB’s move. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backed out of throwing the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener on Monday and said the state would not seek to host the All-Star Game or any other special MLB events.
Democratic state officials in Colorado have touted their state’s mail-in voting system, which began in 2013, for its ease and accessibility. In the November election, there were more than 350 ballot drop boxes around the state along with a ballot tracking system that allowed voters to trace their votes as they were accepted and counted.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold praised the MLB decision, crediting it to the state’s "national gold standard for elections."
"We’ve got the most accessible and secure elections in the country, and are grateful that MLB is giving us the opportunity to showcase how elections can be!" Griswold said in a statement.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference that the state had expressed interest in hosting a game down the road, but when given the last-minute opportunity, Denver was able to make plans quickly. They already had a blueprint for handling hotels, event space and security.
"This is fundamentally about baseball and it’s about the fans. And I couldn’t be more excited that we’re gonna be able to highlight Denver as the venue," Polis said.
It’s uncertain what kind of seating capacity there might be due to COVID-19 restrictions. For the season-opening series against the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the Rockies had a seating capacity of 21,363 fans, which was 42.6% of the usual capacity.
With its spacious outfield and thin air, Coors Field has become a hitter’s paradise. Recently asked about Coors Field becoming the All-Star Game replacement site, Rockies pitcher Jon Gray chuckled and said: "The Home Run Derby would be legendary."
Denver last hosted the MLB All-Star Game back in 1998.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the 2022 All-Star Game.
The relocation of high-profile sports events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the U.S.
The NFL originally awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK Holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.
The NBA first scheduled its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, then shifted it in July 2016 because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017, and the 2019 All-Star Game was held in Charlotte.
Cobb County, the Atlanta suburb where the Braves moved their home stadium to in 2017, was also previously snubbed by a major sporting event 21 years earlier. It was the only metro Atlanta county not to host a leg of the 15,000-mile, 84-day journey of the 1996 Olympic torch relay due to a 1993 resolution condemning the homosexual "lifestyle." The decision was made by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
This story is being reported out of Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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