On Friday, April 2, Major League Baseball made the somewhat-shocking decision to move their All-Star game out of Atlanta due to new, oppressive voting rules passed by the state’s Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp. The controversial move was met with a number of concerns, like the loss of revenue for local Atlanta businesses. The biggest snafu, though, is finding a new location for an event that’s just a few months away.
All-Star games in most leagues take years to plan. The NBA is already planning their 2024 All-Star game in Indianapolis, and the MLB is gearing up for a 2026 celebration in Philadelphia to honor the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Moving a massive event like this is not something that should be taken lightly.
The truth that we all know — with the exception of, apparently, the Atlanta Braves — is that this needed to happen. Of course, it’s disappointing to lose a major event like this because of hack politicians and a Governor that won his election thanks to the voter suppression that he has only deepened. But the new laws in Georgia heavily restrict voting rights not as a response to rampant fraud — there is essentially none — but as a response to the massive turnout of voters against them which led to the election of Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The announcement immediately led to swaths of Mayors basically begging the MLB to give their poor ol’ city a shot at hosting the All-Star game. Baltimore, Md. Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore Orioles CEO John Angelos released a statement lauding the MLB’s decision and saying that their city deserved the extravagant All-Star festivities because … hold on, let me check my notes … Thurgood Marshall was born there. Which is true. He was. Not sure what that has to do with baseball, but hey, go for it fellas.
Jokes aside, Maryland is one of a few states to reinstate voting rights to convicted felons and are working towards forcing correctional facilities to educate inmates on their voting rights. It wouldn’t be the worst decision. The worst decision would be moving the game to a disgustingly gerrymandered state where Republican lawmakers have sought at every turn to restrict absentee voting and supported the baseless claims of voter fraud that plagued our nation last November. Oh, that’s Wisconsin.
To be fair, there are a number of reasons that Milwaukee should be considered as a host city. Wisconsin’s largest city already has the infrastructure to support a hastily-prepared All-Star game, the weather in the summer will probably be pretty nice, and most of all, it would be a fitting place to honor one of baseball’s greatest men, the late Hank Aaron. Aaron passed away last year at the age of 86, and was going to be honored in the ballpark in which he played most of his games. With Atlanta out of the picture, Milwaukee would be a fitting alternative; Aaron was born in the city and spent his final years playing baseball for the Brewers.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said as much in his own statement asking for the midsummer classic to come to his city. He also said that he “shares his concern” regarding the voter suppression in Georgia. That’s an undeniably weaker statement than the one that Baltimore’s leaders put out. Milwaukee County Executive David C. Crowley echoed the Mayor’s statement, saying that he could think of ”no better place” to honor Hank Aaron.
The thing is, they’re right. Milwaukee is an excellent place to honor Aaron’s legacy. And I believe Barrett saying that he will offer his full support in hosting the game. The state of Wisconsin, however, is not.
For the MLB, moving the All-Star game from one state with voting rights issues to another with similar problems would be a lateral move that would prove what many think of this decision: that it’s completely performative.
This isn’t the fault of Tom Barrett. It’s the fault of the Wisconsin state legislators that routinely seek to destroy voting rights in this state.
Let’s go back to the spring of 2020, when Milwaukee voters had to wait over two hours to cast votes in the early days of the pandemic. The entire city had five polling places for a city of almost 600,000 people.
And let’s recall the pearl-clutching regarding Madison’s “Democracy in the Park” events, where Republicans turned red in the face over a completely legal process that only helped people turn in their votes early. Hell, we could even go back to Scott Walker’s waning days in office, when Republicans furiously imposed lame-duck laws to curb the power of every future governor of the state. And while it isn’t directly related to voting rights, it would be one hell of a look for the MLB to move their most lucrative game to a state where the legislature refused to acknowledge Black History Month the same day they voted to honor the racist, homophobic, and misogynistic Rush Limbaugh.
For my and your own mental health, I won’t even get into Ron Johnson’s existence.
Let’s be clear. Wisconsin isn’t the only state with opportunistic legislators seeking to impede the rights of voters for the sole purpose of staying in power. And Milwaukee itself isn’t responsible for the lack of polling places in their city and the suppression of minority voters statewide. But unfortunately for them, they reside in the state that caused all of that.
According to a 2020 study from Northern Illinois University, Wisconsin barely ranked in the top half of states regarding simplicity of voting at 25th out of 50. They’re beat out by plenty of states with Major League teams: New York — the new Yankee Stadium still hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game — Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado, Illinois, and yes, Maryland. California beats them handily too, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to host 2022’s game, so it’s unlikely that the MLB would choose that.
If the MLB really wanted to make a statement on voting rights, they’d move their biggest event of the summer to a state where politicians want people to vote more, not less. And unfortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers, Wisconsin is not that state.