Major League Baseball finally decided to do something to make its product more fun today. Just kidding. Instead, the league decided to wrap itself up in a big, cuddly cocoon of political controversy by moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta and into a city to be named later. Why did commissioner Rob Manfred decide to do this? Well, there is a new voting law in Georgia that has ruffled the feathers of a bunch of apparently very powerful people, and they have pressured MLB into moving one of its flagship events in protest. Either that or Manfred made the decision by himself and he just loves embroiling his product in controversy. You can believe whatever you want.
I choose to believe that sports leagues shouldn’t take sides in political controversies, especially if taking a side involves actions that harm the fans and businesses of a city that was promised a huge event. Depending on whom you ask, the new voting law either makes in unnecessarily difficult for citizens of Georgia to vote or it safeguards elections against fraud by instituting common-sense restrictions such as the requirement of a government-issued identification card. Some people will see it one way and some people will see it the other way. That’s why we have elections in the first place. MLB decided to see it one way — which is fine — and it also decided to punish Georgia for seeing it the other way — which is not fine.
Is this decision going to be the end of baseball or sports as we know it? Probably not, but it’s another blow in a series of blows to people like me who just want to watch sports without being bombarded by politics. The worst part is that baseball could have bombarded us with politics and still held the All-Star Game in Atlanta. It would have been too easy to convince the players to kneel for the national anthem in protest, write political messages on their cleats, or any number of symbolic things that wouldn’t be punishing the people of Georgia for something most of them have nothing to do with.
Would all of that stuff be obnoxious and turn off many fans? Of course, but at least Atlanta’s fans would still have their All-Star Game. Instead, MLB has chosen to piss off Atlanta fans and alienate half the country just to get some good press. That’s a strange way to go about growing the game, which should be the commissioner’s main goal.
Stupid decisions like this won’t get me to stop watching. I’m not going to miss out on what’s supposed to be the most exciting Mets season since 2015 just because a game I’ve never attended is being moved to a different city. Maybe that’s the problem, though. Too many people allowing MLB to make decisions based on politics instead of doing what’s best for the game will allow the league to continue making such decisions in the future. I suspect more casual fans will change their viewership habits even if they don’t write blog posts about baseball. We saw what happened to the NBA ratings over the summer when Adam Silver put social justice slogans all over the court and the uniforms. While I do my best to tune out politics when they interfere with sports, many fans have shown they aren’t as willing to do so.