Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s summer All-Star Game on Friday over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics — including the CEOs of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola — have condemned as being too restrictive.
The decision to pull the July 13 game from Atlanta’s Truist Park amounts to the first economic backlash against Georgia for the voting law that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed into law March 25.
Kemp has insisted the law’s critics have mischaracterized what it does, yet GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. The law includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year, the commissioner said in a statement. A new ballpark for the events wasn’t immediately revealed.
Manfred said he also spoke with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which at the time of the commissioner’s decision said it had still not taken a stance.
“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft,” Manfred said. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
Kemp called it a “knee-jerk decision” that means “cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.”
“This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from (President) Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections,” Kemp said in a statement, referring to the Democratic candidate whom he narrowly defeated in the 2018 election. “I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied.”
Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston, a powerful Republican who backed the voting law changes, said the baseball league’s decision “robs Georgians of a special celebration of our national pastime free of politics.”
Like other Republicans in the state, Ralston vowed to stand behind the new law, which adds strict identification requirements for voting absentee by mail, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line, among many other provisions.
Georgia Republicans say changes were needed to maintain voter confidence in the election system. Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately affect communities of colour. On Wednesday, two of Georgia’s most prominent business leaders sided with the law’s opponents.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian labeled the law “unacceptable,” while Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey called the legislation a “step backward.”
The Atlanta Braves issued a statement Friday saying the team is disappointed by Manfred’s decision.
“We are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said. “The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion.”
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is to coach the National League All-Star team, applauded the MLB for moving the game from Georgia.
“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard — and in this particular case, people of colour — for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” Roberts said.
Abrams, who has championed voting rights since her loss to Kemp, blasted the new law. The Democrat is being closely watched to see if she seeks a rematch against Kemp in 2022.
“Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy,” Abrams said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said she supports the MLB’s decision. Atlanta will no doubt share in the economic loss, though the Braves’ home stadium is now located outside the city, in suburban Cobb County.
“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.
Some Democrats from the Georgia county where the game was to be held said they oppose the MLB’s move. Lisa Cupid, the Black chairwoman of the Cobb County Commission, said she urged the league to stay rather than harm hotels and other businesses still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
State Rep. Anulewicz, a Democrat whose district includes the stadium, added: “I don’t know who Major League Baseball feels they are punishing. The governor, from his statement, has made clear he doesn’t feel he is being punished.”
The relocation of high-profile sports events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the U.S.
The NFL originally awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK Holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.
The NBA first scheduled its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, then shifted it in July 2016 because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017, and the 2019 All-Star Game was held in Charlotte.
The NCAA executive committee decided in 2001 to ban awarding championship sites in advance to states that displayed the Confederate flag but did not alter events whose sites were determined by seeding or ranking. That was expanded last June by the renamed body, the Board of Governors, to prevent any NCAA championship event from being played where the flag had a prominent presence. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law less than two weeks later to retire the flag.
Manfred said despite the change of venue, the MLB still plans to use the All-Star Game this year to honour Hank Aaron, the Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.
Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona
Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.
Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.
By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.
In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.
No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match
Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.
Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.
(Field Level Media)
Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19
(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.
The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.
“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.
“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”
The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.
“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.
“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”
The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.
“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”
Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.
“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)
Nick Foligno hopes to make Leafs debut Thursday vs. Jets
Former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is eyeing Thursday as his potential debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said on an NHL.com podcast.
The Maple Leafs acquired the left wing on April 11 in a three-team trade with Columbus and the San Jose Sharks, with each team retaining a portion of Foligno’s salary so he can join the North Division leaders for their Stanley Cup pursuit. Toronto visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
Because he moved from the U.S. to Canada, Foligno was required to quarantine for seven days before joining his new team for practices and games, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
“Seven days of just nothing, and then you jump right into it, it would be nice to probably have a practice, but I rather just that — let’s go,” Foligno said on “The Chirp with Darren Millard.” “I’m here to play for them and get this thing rolling, so I probably prefer just to jump right into it and get going.”
If the Leafs put Foligno in their lineup Thursday at Winnipeg, he’ll get to play against his former Columbus teammate, Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Foligno played eight-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets and his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 950 career games, he has tallied 203 goals and 279 assists.
The Maple Leafs sent their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder to Columbus and their 2021 fourth-rounder to San Jose in order to add Foligno to their stacked group of forwards, which includes NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
Foligno’s father, Mike Foligno, was an NHL veteran who played parts of four seasons for the Leafs
(Field Level Media)
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