Hall lawmakers say the Major League Baseball All-Star game’s move from Georgia after criticism of the state’s elections overhaul is a step too far and amounts to “cancel culture.”
The MLB’s decision has been met by widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers from across the country who believe the sports league is caving to improper criticisms of the law as being “anti-voting.”
The recently passed and signed Senate Bill 202, or The Election Integrity Act of 2021, makes sweeping changes to the state’s elections process, including adding early voting hours and limiting hours for absentee ballot drop-offs. Critics say the bill makes it harder to vote, especially in minority communities.
But MLB’s decision to take away the All-Star game, according to Hall lawmakers, is hurting Georgia’s local economy, baseball fans and businesses.
“Like many avid baseball fans, I was disheartened to see MLB cave to the cancel culture,” state Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, told The Times this week. “But as a state representative, I refuse to apologize for securing our election process in a fair and equitable way. The truth is this bill makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, echoed Barr.
“I am disappointed to hear the news that MLB will not be holding its All-Star Game here in Georgia, a decision which will only hurt Georgia workers, businesses and fans,” Miller said.. “Unfortunately, this decision was brought about by our very own U.S. senators and the sitting president of the United States, who continue to repeat misinformation that even the liberal Washington Post recognized is false.”
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, in a statement over the April 3 weekend said that the MLB’s stance on the bill is “anti-election integrity.”
“Free, fair, and secure elections ensure the government stays accountable to the people, which has resulted in the U.S. becoming the most prosperous nation in the world,” Clyde said. “MLB has directly benefited from these freedoms for more than 100 years, and this response is Little League. “
Meanwhile, Atlanta-based companies, such as Coca-Cola and Delta, as well as the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons and the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks, have come out against the bill in recent days.
The Atlanta Braves held a neutral stance on the bill in their statement regarding the MLB’s decision to move the game, but stressed that Georgia fans, businesses, and fans were the “victims” in the decision.
Joel Potter, an economist at the University of North Georgia with a specialty in the economics of sports, said that the MLB’s decision to relocate its All-Star game due to backlash from state legislation isn’t without precedent.
In 2016, the National Basketball Association and the NCAA announced that they would pull the All-Star and NCAA tournament games, respectively, out of North Carolina in response to the state’s controversial legislation designed to maintain single-sex public restrooms.
After the North Carolina legislature reverted the changes back to normal, the NBA brought the All-Star Game back to Charlotte in 2019.
In response to the criticism of economic effects, Potter said the potential losses are not exactly what they may seem.
“The vast majority of this revenue would have ‘leaked’ away from the local economy since this affluent demographic would have spent most of their money elsewhere in the world,” said Potter.
The biggest economic losses, according to Potter, are to high-income groups, such as team ownership and the metro city’s hospitality owners.
“Since most of the money from hosting an All-Star game goes to these ‘big fish’ individuals, and because most of these individuals tend to spend their dollars further afield,” said Potter, “the local economy doesn’t really lose much, if anything, from the game’s cancellation.”
Potter said that All-Star Game or not, local hotel and restaurant staff will continue to earn their same wages.
“Even though nearby hotels might lose revenue because the All-Star game is leaving, the typical workers at such hotels will still likely make the same wage,” said Potter.
Economists are split on the actual value of the All-Star Game on the local economy of its host city. But Atlanta has lost more than $200 million due to cancellations to the NCAA Men’s Final Four and Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
According to the MLB, revenue streams from All-Star Games from 1996 to 2019 have ranged from $39 million to $191.5 million.
But academic economists, according to Potter, tend to agree that the economic impact of these types of All-Star game events is actually closer to a net-neutral gain.
“One study investigated MLB All-Star games over a 24-year period and found that cities with an All-Star game experienced economic outcomes that were worse than expected,” said Potter. “If academic economists find that the impact is close to $0, why are we seeing headlines stating that $100 million will be lost because the All-Star game is leaving?”
In the same study, Potter said that MLB’s All-Star game decreased taxable sales by $30 million in host cities compared to similar events.
But the social implications of MLB’s decision have led lawmakers and political commentators to suggest boycotting the sports league, but that impact is questionable as well.
“I don’t think a fan boycott would have any economic impact on the local economy,” said Potter. “Teams and leagues could theoretically be made worse off by a fan boycott, but I just don’t think the effect would be large enough to make a noticeable difference.”
State Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, told The Times that “context is everything” when it comes to the new election laws, and said that he wants to have conversations with critics of the law before similar decisions to cancel events in the state are made.
“If given the chance to share with the president, Major League Baseball and others who have concerns over this new law, I would challenge them to look at what was in place before and what we have put in place now,” said Dubnik. “We increased more opportunities to vote than most states in our country. I regret that Georgia businesses, the Georgia economy and hardworking Georgians are the ones that will suffer from the move by Major League Baseball.”
For now, Georgia’s loss is Colorado’s gain, after the MLB announced that the game will be played in Denver’s Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.