MLB moving All-Star Game in response to voting restrictions

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball announced Friday it was moving this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta’s Truist Park, a response to Georgia enacting a new law last month restricting voting rights.

MLB had awarded the game to Atlanta in May 2019 and the game was scheduled for July 13 as part of baseball’s midsummer break that includes the Futures Game on July 11 and Home Run Derby the following night.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft, which had been scheduled to be held in Atlanta for the first time. A new ballpark for this year’s events wasn’t immediately revealed.

MLB’s announcement came eight days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.

Manfred made the decision after discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association, individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year.

“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 in a statement. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

“Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” Manfred said.

Other sports have moved high-profile events because of social issues.

In the early 1990s, the NFL shifted the Super Bowl out of Arizona after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday.

The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, when the league took issue with a state law that cut anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The NCAA for years didn’t hold championships in states where the Confederate battle flag was officially recognized.

This year’s All-Star Game will include honoring Hank Aaron, the Braves’ Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.

“We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities,” Manfred said. “In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star legacy projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.”

MLB canceled last year’s All-Star Game, which had been scheduled for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, due to the late and shortened season caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 game will be played at Dodger Stadium.

MLB has awarded the 2026 All-Star Game to Philadelphia as part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The 1972 All-Star Game was played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the 2000 All-Star Game was at Atlanta’s Turner Field.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.