March 26, 2021

The 2021 All-Star Game Should Not Be Played In Atlanta

It is now a felony offense in Georgia to give a person waiting in line to vote a drink of water or something to eat, according to Senate Bill 202, a wide-ranging anti-voting measure signed into law (behind closed doors, in secret) by Governor Brian Kemp (a Republican, as if I needed to tell you).

Section 33 of SB202 states:
No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast.

Conceivably, someone who donated a case of bottled water to a volunteer group who later handed out those bottles of water to thirsty voters waiting in line for six or seven hours could be charged with a felony crime of "participat[ing] in the giving of . . . drink". 

When Park Cannon (who represents the 58th district of Georgia) knocked on Kemp's door because she wanted to be present for the signing ceremony, since the new law would affect all of her constituents, she was arrested. One officer actually pulled out his taser, but thought better of using it.

The Georgia Constitution states lawmakers "shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly" except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace. The Fulton County Department of Public Safety stated Cannon was charged with willful obstruction of law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and preventing or disrupting general assembly sessions. I imagine I'll be waiting a long time for even a somewhat coherent explanation of how a knock on a door is a disruption worthy of arrest.
SB-202 will limit absentee voting and in-person voting before election day, and gives voters fewer locations to drop off completed ballots. It also requires additional identification in order to cast a ballot. Republicans claim the laws are needed to ensure "election security", but they have been unable to produce even one piece of evidence showing that any election insecurity exists.

This is voter suppression, which should be blatant to anyone not under the corrosive spell of the GQP Cult. The bill will give partisan officials in Georgia additional power to affect the certification of an election by disregarding the results of the popular vote. If the new measures had been in place last year, Republicans could have interfered when Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused Donald Trump's plea (made among his 18 desperate phone calls to Raffensperger's office) to "find 11,870 additional votes" (allowing The Former Guy to carry the state by a single vote) and certified Joe Biden's victory.

On Friday, Biden outlined some of the law's discriminatory aspects, calling it "an atrocity", the "Jim Crow of the 21st Century", and "an un-American law to deny people the right to vote":
Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over [the US still refuses to make Election Day a national holiday]. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line — lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods. . . . If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency . . . [y]ou don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.
It is one of more than 250 bills the Republicans are trying to pass nationwide after their unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the incoming government (and "cancel" 81,268,924 votes), failures that culminated in an insurrection on the Capitol in early January that led to the deaths of five people (including two suicides), injuries to more than 140 police officers, and more than $30 million in damages.

But disenfranchising tens of millions of Americans, making it harder to vote than to purchase a semi-automatic weapon, is not all the Party of Sedition has been doing. They have also been whining for the last four weeks about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

MLB partnered last summer with several major corporations under the slogan: "We're 100% In For Democracy". It encouraged teams to use its ballparks as polling places for the 2020 election and supported voter education efforts across the country. It gave employees the day off on Election Day so they could vote and/or volunteer. In September 2020, Commissioner Rob Manfred stated: "The right to vote is a pillar of American democracy, a privilege that we should all appreciate and exercise."

Now is the time for MLB and Commissioner Manfred to prove those statements were not only for show. As of this moment, the 2021 All-Star Game will be played in Atlanta on Tuesday, July 13. Now is the time for Manfred to declare that the state of Georgia will not be rewarded for its blatant and undisguised suppression of the right to vote.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that there is ample precedence for "stripping Atlanta of a great sporting event in the interest of social justice" (links added):
In 1990, Arizona voters rejected a proposal to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday. The NFL responded by moving the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe, Ariz., to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Voters later approved the holiday, and the NFL awarded the 1996 Super Bowl to Phoenix.

In 2016, after North Carolina adopted a law that directed transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, the NBA branded the law as discriminatory. The league moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The law later was repealed, and the NBA awarded its 2019 All-Star game to Charlotte.

Stacey Abrams, a Georgian politician who founded Fair Fight Action:
There should be no silence from the business community when anyone in power is trying to strip away the right to vote from the people.
Craig Calcaterra (Cup of Coffee) writes:

If MLB actually believed the stuff it says in feel-good press releases aimed at making itself look like it cares about voting rights and race, it'd be all over this.

One strongly suspects, however, that MLB does not actually believe that stuff. One suspects that, when it matters, as it does now, the league will side with those who are suppressing the vote. They're the ones, after all, who give the league taxpayer subsidies and favorable regulatory treatment. They're the ones who deliver legislation Major League Baseball wants with respect to labor laws, gambling laws and everything in between. MLB knows that its fans, particularly in Georgia, skew white and conservative too, and they'd dare not upset them either.

In light of this, I expect Major League Baseball to do and say nothing about the new laws in Georgia. And I expect it to play the All-Star Game in Atlanta this July. And I suspect the American flag they display in the outfield before the game will be absolutely tremendous.

In between then and now, I expect Major League Baseball to laud Jackie Robinson and Henry Aaron as it offers its usual, empty civil rights platitudes, conveniently ignoring the fact that those men and others fought hard against exactly the sort of racist and undemocratic bullshit Georgia is pulling right now.

MLB's inability to do the right thing, whether because of stupidity or ignorance or cowardice, is legendary. In 2011, MLB kept quiet and hoped the numerous calls to boycott the All-Star Game in Arizona would blow over. 

I'm surprised to say I don't think I'm as cynical as Calcaterra (yet). I think there might be a "non-zero" chance Manfred will shock the world and do the right thing, assuming he has some supporting noise behind him (from players and fans). . . . We shall see.
So many things so hard to say as you stumble
To take refuge in your offices of shame . . .
I say that someday . . . you stand up unafraid to believe in justice

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