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Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star Game from Georgia following the state passing a new voting law.
Before and after MLB’s decision on April 2, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams repeatedly called on corporations to stand up for voting rights, but she said boycotts would hurt minorities.
President Joe Biden expressed support for the idea of a boycott by MLB, but the White House later recast Biden’s position. He gave a more nuanced response when asked about the idea of a boycott by the Masters golf tournament.
Conservative radio show host Ben Shapiro and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp blamed Democrats for Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia in response to a new voting law.
Shapiro said that voting rights activist Stacey Abrams "suddenly" said MLB shouldn’t move the game. He said that President Joe Biden "overtly suggested" that the players were justified in not playing in Georgia.
"It seems like even members of Democratic Party are beginning to realize that they have done themselves some real electoral harm by targeting the voters of Georgia and then targeting the state of Georgia economically over what is a fairly uncontroversial bill," Shapiro said during his April 15 interview with Kemp.
Kemp suggested that Abrams initially wanted a boycott.
"We know for a fact that these groups, including the White House and Stacey Abrams were pressuring these companies and Major League Baseball, and now they are saying that they shouldn’t boycott and shouldn’t move the game, when that’s exactly what they wanted to start with. This needs to be laid at her feet. Small business owners, especially minority businesses, need to know what the truth is, and that's why I am standing up and telling them."
Kemp’s comments are misleading; they lump together the positions of Biden and Abrams when they’ve actually taken different positions. Biden expressed support for a boycott, although the White House walked back his comments. But Abrams repeatedly spoke against boycotts before and after Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Georgia.
Abrams fought against SB 202, a voting bill written by Republican lawmakers following Democrats' statewide wins. We found that the law is a mixed bag — it expands early voting but it adds restrictions for voting by mail.
We asked a spokesperson for Kemp for his evidence that Abrams wanted MLB to boycott Georgia, and Mallory Blount sent us an article in Newsweek following the announcement that the film Emancipation was pulling production from Georgia. But the article quoted Seth Bringman, a spokesperson for the Abrams-founded Fair Fight Action, speaking against the idea of a boycott.
"We urge events, productions, and businesses to come to Georgia," and speak out against voter suppression, the group said.
Abrams repeatedly spoke against boycotts.
In a Twitter video March 31, Abrams said: "I understand the passion of those calling for boycotts of Georgia following the passage of SB 202. Boycotts have been an important tool throughout our history to achieve social change. But here’s the thing: Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters whose votes are the most suppressed under SB 202 are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia. To our friends across the country please do not boycott us. To my fellow Georgians, stay and fight, stay and vote."
In an op-ed in USA Today, Abrams wrote that the advancement of civil rights relied on economic boycotts, but cautioned that there is a downside:
"Boycotts invariably also cost jobs. To be sustainable, the pain of deprivation must be shared rather than borne by those who are least resilient. They also require a long-term commitment to action." (Abrams originally wrote the op-ed March 31, but it was updated to include those comments days after MLB’s announcement. Her initial op-ed also raised concerns about boycotts.)
Abrams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article published April 1 that critics of Georgia’s new law shouldn’t rush to boycott "yet." Instead, she said that corporations should publicly condemn the law, invest in voting rights expansion and support federal legislation.
The reporter, Greg Bluestein, later tweeted that "@staceyabrams spoke to an @MLB senior adviser and ‘strongly’ urged the league to keep the All-Star game in Atlanta before the decision to yank the event."
A spokesperson for MLB told PolitiFact that on March 31 Abrams spoke with a senior league official and urged the league not to pull the game from Atlanta.
After MLB announced it was moving the game, Abrams said, "As I have stated, I respect boycotts, although I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs." She also said that "as other events, productions and businesses weigh whether to patronize Georgia, I urge those who can to come and speak out, and I urge those who are here to stay and fight, and to stay and vote."
An ESPN reporter asked Biden March 31: "What do you think about the possibility that baseball decides to move their All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of this political issue?"
Biden replied: "I think today's professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that."
"He was simply conveying that he would support that decision if that decision was made by Major League Baseball, just like he would support decisions made by private sector companies. We’re not standing here and calling for companies to boycott," Psaki said April 6.
A reporter asked Biden if the Masters golf tournament should be moved out of Georgia. This time, his response was more nuanced.
"I think that’s up to the Masters," Biden said April 6, praising businesses for speaking out against the new Georgia law.
But he said that there is a downside to boycotts because if businesses or events "move out of Georgia, the people who need the help the most — people who are making hourly wages — sometimes get hurt the most. I think it’s a very tough decision for a corporation to make or a group to make, but I respect it when they make that judgment, and I support whatever judgment they make."
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., demurred on the question of a boycott when asked about it March 28 on CNN. He gave a broad statement in favor of corporations standing up for voting rights, but also said he wanted Georgia "open for business." When MLB announced its decision he said, "It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law, not by leaving Georgia, but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on and hand-in-hand with the community."
Georgia’s other senator, Democrat Jon Ossoff, told the Washington Post April 1, "I absolutely oppose and reject any notion of boycotting Georgia." Ossoff made a similar statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Editor’s note: We updated this article after initial publication to clarify the publication dates of Abrams’ USA Today op-ed.
Mallory Blount, spokesperson for Gov. Brian Kemp, Tweet, April 15, 2021
Major League Baseball, MLB statement regarding 2021 All-Star Game, April 2, 2021
Stacey Abrams, Twitter video, March 31, 2021
USA Today op-ed by Stacey Abrams, Corporate America must pick a side on voting rights, prevent a Georgia repeat, March 31, 2021
National Republican Senatorial Committee press release, Ossoff & Abrams Oppose Warnock’s Boycott of GA Businesses, April 2, 2021
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stacey Abrams: Georgia companies shouldn’t face boycott ‘yet’ over election law, April 1, 2021
Washington Post, Biden wades into contentious Georgia boycott battle by voicing support for moving All-Star Game, April 1, 2021
Washington Post, How Biden’s support for the All-Star Game boycott divided Democrats in Georgia, April 8, 2021
Factba.se, Interview: Sage Steele Interviews Joe Biden for ESPN in Pittsburgh, March 31, 2021
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Coke, Delta oppose Georgia’s ‘unacceptable’ voting law, March 31, 2021
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, In Hollywood, Abrams urges film execs to resist ‘moral pull’ to boycott, June 12, 2019
11 Alive, Stacey Abrams prepares for trip to Hollywood, June 5, 2019
Atlanta Journal-constitution, The Jolt: To boycott or not to boycott? Georgia Democrats’ new question after SB 202, March 29, 2021
White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, April 6, 2021
White House, Remarks by President Biden Marking the 150 Millionth COVID-19 Vaccine Shot, April 6, 2021
Newsweek, Stacey Abrams' Organization Tells Hollywood To 'Stay and Fight' in Georgia, April 14, 2021
New York Times, Kemp Lashes M.L.B. as Republicans Defend Georgia’s Voting Law, April 3, 2021
Stacey Abrams, Tweet, Nov. 17, 2018
Los Angeles Times, Stacey Abrams weighs in on abortion bans, boycotts and California, May 15, 2019
Major League Baseball, Statement to PolitiFact, April 15, 2021
Email interview, Seth Bringman, Fair Fight Action spokesperson, April 15, 2021
Email interview, Mallory Blount, Gov. Brian Kemp spokesperson, April 19, 2021