For the first time since (I’m thinking . . . I’m still thinking) just shy of forever, Major League Baseball officials did something huge when it came to civil rights. Not only that, but they did so without licking a finger before placing it to the wind, or without pretending they’ve at least hummed “We shall overcome” during their lifetimes, or without waiting for one of their peers in professional sports to do a lot before they responded with a little.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday baseball will yank the All-Star Game and the MLB Draft from Atlanta this year over the racist state voting law passed last week by Georgia Republican legislators.
Oh, and the Braves still haven’t banned the offensive tomahawk chop and chant from their games, but that’s another story.
This MLB move is splendid, and get this . . .
Baseball never does anything quickly (putting artificial surfaces in ballparks before taking an eternity to get rid of the stuff, requiring hitters to wear batting helmets, replacing wool flannel uniforms with polyester ones).
I mean, it took 71 years after the “National” became the first of baseball’s two major leagues in 1876 before the game allowed a Black man to appear on a lineup card.
Baseball made this decision in eight days.
MORE FOR YOU
Why? Well, maybe its because the collective bargaining agreement expires after this season, and with MLB Players Association head Tony Clark telling the Boston Globe last week he wanted to discuss moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia’s return to its old Dixie ways, maybe the owners wished to move a possible hurdle from the finish line of negotiations.
Clark is Black. So is Dave Roberts, who joins Dusty Baker as baseball’s only Black managers. Since Roberts led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a world championship last year, he is slated to serve as the National League manager, but he said last week he might skip an All-Star Game in Atlanta under these circumstances.
That wouldn’t be a good look for baseball, especially since the percentage of African-American players in the game has dwindled from 24 in the mid-1970s and 18 during the early 1980s (which I determined in 1982 through research for the San Francisco Examiner) to below 8 at the beginning of last season.
Maybe Manfred, the owners and the slew of other non-minorities who run the game wished to show folks that baseball is embarrassed by those numbers, or maybe baseball’s wokeness out of nowhere is a fluke.
Whatever the case, Jackie Robinson is applauding Somewhere Up There.
“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said Friday in a statement, referring to the reaction of those he huddled with regarding Georgia Senate Bill 202, which, among other things, makes it illegal to give voters food and water in line.
Even President Joe Biden cringed over the ways this Georgia law was designed to hamper the voting of minorities (who disproportionately wait for hours in those lines) throughout the state. He said Wednesday he would “strongly support” moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
So maybe that was it.
Did I say Jackie is pleased?
The same goes for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., another person Somewhere Up There, and I’m thinking The Drum Major For Justice isn’t too bothered that his hometown will lose way more than the $65 million the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission estimated was the direct business impact on that city two years ago when baseball held its last All-Star Game before the pandemic.
Dr. King realized the biggest key to solving racist actions in a hurry was through economic means.
See the Montgomery Boycott.
Courtesy of Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of that bus in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955, the Montgomery City Lines spent the next seven months losing between 30,000 to 40,000 bus fares per day.
Soon afterward, Montgomery desegregated its buses.
The point is, money talks, and the lack of it often leads to changes regarding discriminatory practices.
Which brings us to this: According to the latest numbers from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, various economic-minded folks rank its city high among the top 10 in categories, ranging from technical hub (No. 1) to business climate among major cities (2).
In addition, the 2021 All-Star Game was slated for The Battery, located north of Atlanta, where the Braves built Truist Park four years ago as the centerpiece of their own business area.
The cost of the whole project was $1.1 billion, and it features restaurants, shops and a bunch of other places the team expected to produce millions of dollars (for metro Atlanta and for their own pockets) in July.
Those who run the Braves envisioned a weekend at their place stuffed with fans attending All-Star Game-related events.
That won’t happen, and the Braves are upset.
The franchise issued this statement:
The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of Major League Baseball to move its’ 2021 All Star Game.
This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city. 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. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community.
Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.
We will continue to support the community legacy projects which have been planned and are in process.
Yeah, I hear you, Braves officials.
Don’t direct your anger at baseball for doing the right thing. Instead, channel all of your disgust toward Georgia Republican legislators (and to those chopping and chanting) for returning the state to the 19th century by doing the wrong thing.