Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned US industry Monday against “economic blackmail” after Major League Baseball moved its 2021 All-Star Game to protest against Georgia’s new voting restrictions widely seen as targeting African Americans.
Leading a Republican attack on the move, which deprived the city of Atlanta of the popular mid-season game, McConnell said pressure on the southern state to reverse the Republican-backed election laws amounted to “a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people.”
He accused companies who have sided with the professional baseball league and anti-racism activists to fight the voting restrictions as bowing to “far-left mobs.”
“Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box,” McConnell said.
MLB stunned Atlanta on Friday by announcing that the July 13 All Star Game would be taken away from Georgia.
That came after Republicans in the state legislature responded to big losses in recent elections by passing voting restrictions which would mainly impact the state’s large and mostly Democratic-leaning Black population.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and African-American leaders have decried the new rules as “Jim Crow 2.0,” a reference to laws used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to repress the political and economic power of Black people.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” he said.
Republicans blasted back, rejecting the characterization of the law and accusing Biden of misinforming the public about it.
McConnell said in a statement that some of the same restrictions in the Georgia law are maintained in other states led by Democrats.
He said the pressure on Georgia came from “a host of powerful people and institutions” who “apparently think they stand to benefit from parroting this big lie.”
“Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country,” he said.
In an open letter to Manfred, Republican Senator Marco Rubio suggested the baseball league was being hypocritical.
“Will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all like China and Cuba?” he asked.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden supports MLB’s right to make the decision it did, based on what the players want.
But she said Biden is focused on federal legislation to make it easier to vote.
“We’ve not asked corporations to take specific actions, that’s not our focus here,” Psaki said.