In many ways, it was a decision that launched a thousand boycotts.
If people wanted to trace the surge of consumer activism back to its root, Georgia was probably the straw that broke the woke camel’s back.
When Major League Baseball decided to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta over a 2021 law to safeguard elections, fans decided they’d had enough. Everyday Americans, who were already well past their boiling point on cancel culture, hit back. Now, in a delicious turn of events, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has come crawling back to the city he shunned.
At a press conference Thursday, the commissioner announced the decision to have Truist Park host the 2025 showcase. “As a model of success on and off the field, the Braves deserve to host the All-Star Game,” Manfred said, vowing to help the Braves deliver on an event that “brings people together and benefits the community in many ways.”
Of course, the league has had two years to dwell on the 2021 folly that did not bring the community together—a decision that not only made baseball the pariah of pro sports, but led to a shocking loss of revenue and nationwide respect. Almost immediately following his decision to yank the game from Atlanta over the voting reforms, Manfred faced a $1 billion lawsuit, increased scrutiny of MLB’s business practices, congressional threats to its antitrust law exemptions, and the second-lowest viewership of the summer classic ever.
If the goal was to scare other states into submission on election integrity, the MLB failed spectacularly.
Days later, in a show of impressive defiance, then-Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey went on to ink his name to a similar law, despite heat from another sports behemoth, the NFL. People inside football warned him that his 2023 Super Bowl might be on the line if he signed his state’s election reforms.
“I report to the people of Arizona and not a major sports league,” he fired back. “And I’m going to make decisions on the policies that are put in front of me. … I think Major League Baseball made a big mistake,” Ducey said. “I’d like to keep politics out of [sports]. That’s how I’d prefer it.”
As the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell—a minority owner in the Cincinnati Reds—pointed out on Fox at the time, MLB’s Manfred got “way out over his skis on this.”
“He condemned some commonsense reforms that are pretty commonplace throughout other cities—and he bought into the narrative that these reforms were suppressive and repressive. And now what he’s starting to realize was that he didn’t do his homework, and he led baseball [into] a $100 million catastrophe that is spinning back and hurting people.”
And in the process, Manfred not only destroyed the leverage that major league sports have in the states, he lit a grassroots fire that shows no signs of burning out. From Delta to Coca-Cola and every company in between, CEOs who glommed on to President Joe Biden’s lie that Georgia’s law was “Jim Crow 2.0” suffered for it. If these Fortune 500 bosses had actually read the bill that they were willing to torch their profits over, they’d have realized that not only did it expand early voting, it looked to reassure African Americans—and all Georgians—that their ballots would actually count.
The reality is, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp explained on “Washington Watch” in April, “I don’t think [Democrats] really care what the bill actually says.” This false narrative is “all based on a lie that Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams have been spreading before they even read the bill. They have alternative motives here, quite honestly.”
In fact, “134 of 159 counties will actually be offering more early voting hours or more election hours than they were in the last election because of the way this bill levels the playing field,” the governor explained. “So, the whole argument about … keeping working men and women from voting—well, obviously, if we were doing that, we wouldn’t be adding an additional Saturday that people could vote.”
The state is also adding one ballot dropbox per county, which wouldn’t have existed without this law. Not to mention, Kemp went on, “We’ve been using voter ID to vote in person since the mid-2000s … . They act like we’re creating the hardship. That is not the case. … It’s hard to really come out and say that the president of the United States is lying about this bill. But that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
Hollywood, Big Tech, and corporate America descended, squeezing all of the familiar pressure points in hopes that Kemp would break. He didn’t. In fact, after days of abuse and media harassment, the governor became more outspoken, more resolved. By the time Major League Baseball made its desperate decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta, the Left had already lost.
Now, with no small amount of poetic justice, Manfred is back. And in a nod to the embarrassment of two years ago, he did acknowledge, “I made the decision in 2021 to move the event, and I understand that—believe me—people had then and probably still have different views as to the merits of that decision.”
While the Left may stubbornly agree with baseball on the merits of that decision, what they cannot deny is the fruit of it. The league’s decision to punish Atlanta didn’t just backfire, it sparked a nationwide movement. It was, as Kemp predicted, “a ‘woke-up’ call.”
“We’ve got to unite against this cancel culture,” he argued. And thanks to his courage, Americans still are.
As corporations have become more activist, so have consumers. Once-untouchable goliaths like Disney, Target, and Bud Light no longer ridicule conservatives’ buying power; they feel it. What was once a lonely crusade for a handful of shareholders advocates has turned into a coast-to-coast effort to force businesses to abandon their hyperpoliticized agenda. As the losses to those brands dip into the multiple billions, there’s a growing sense that companies—including the four big pro sports—are getting the message.
“For those who think that social conservatives are waging the culture war, this example should prove that it’s the progressive Left—not some imagined boogeyman on the Right—who are the instigators,” the Family Research Council’s Meg Kilgannon told The Washington Stand.
“The far left’s efforts to manage men by messaging on and within sports is tiresome,” she insisted. “And in this case, MLB can enjoy an extra-large serving of humble pie this Thanksgiving. The fans would be grateful to have less politicking in sports.”
Originally published in The Washington Stand
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