Georgia, the state set to host the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game has come under national scrutiny for a law placing restrictions on voting, which will disproportionately impact Black Americans and other minorities, according to the Los Angeles Times. Players, coaches, and the MLB have an opportunity to stand up for what’s right.
Georgia, a long-time republican stronghold recently flipped “blue” in the 2020 presidential and senatorial elections. The state’s lean toward voting democratic worried the republican state legislature who rushed through a bill aimed at changing voting laws in the state. These laws range from limiting mail-in-ballot drop off locations to banning the distribution of food and water to voters waiting in line.
The All-Star Game will be the 91st in MLB history. That history is one marred with segregation and racism that persists to this day. The MLB has come a long way since Jackie Robinson was first pelted with racial abuse with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the stain of hate can still be seen in the game, just as it still stains the United States as a whole.
Racism has festered in this country for centuries and continues to take different forms. With the police killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, protests engulfed the nation, including professional sports. Athletes in various leagues, most notably the NBA, protested the injustice toward Black Americans and other minorities in many ways. Inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, many took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Others wore shirts with messages like “Black Lives Matter” or walked off the court in protest.
The location of the All-Star Game presents an opportunity for MLB players and teams to stand up against this law and furthermore, to stand up for what is right. Players and teams have vast fanbases that give them incredible influence in the public discourse. In recent years more and more athletes have used their influence to push for social justice and equity. Players have a chance to make their voices, and the voices of minorities in Georgia, heard this summer.
It is a lot to ask of these players. Their job description does not include advocating social reform and political activism. But, in the face of such archaic and racially-motivated laws, players do not have the option to stay silent, for silence will be taken as complicity.
Jackie Robinson’s number 42 hangs in Truist Park, just as it does in every other MLB stadium. That number honors a man who would not be silent on racism in America. Robinson once said that “life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your life.” It is time for MLB players to decide if they will stay in the stands or take action. If the All-Star game remains in Atlanta, the players selected to play should boycott the game.
The players are not the only ones who need to take action. The MLB and its owners hold the true power over what baseball does. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said when announcing the league’s partnership with Civic Alliance that “The right to vote is a pillar of American democracy, a privilege that we should all appreciate and exercise.” Manfred needs to live up to his word and move the game out of a state attempting to silence its minority voters.
Photo courtesy of MLB.com.