Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, who served from September 1989 to September 1992, criticized current Commissioner Rob Manfred in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, for committing a “serious mistake” in taking the league’s All-Star Game (ASG) out of Georgia.
Manfred opted to pull the game from Atlanta because he believes the state’s newly passed voter reform laws, which include requiring voter ID for absentee ballots and expanding early voting days, among other limits, target to attack the ability of voting of many, specifically the state’s communities of color, especially in metropolitan areas like Atlanta.
Vincent highlighted the disproportionate harm such boycotts have on minority communities. With the move of the July 13 game to Denver, almost 30% of Atlanta’s minority-owned companies are estimated to lose $100 million. Atlanta has a Black population of 51%, while Denver is 76% White and 9% Black.
According to MLB statistics, the ASG generates an average of $84.4 million a year for host cities.
“The players will get paid no matter where the game takes place. MLB will get the same television revenue. The only people hurt by Mr. Manfred’s decision will be Atlanta’s stadium workers and local vendors,” Vincent wrote.
Looking beyond, “Major League Baseball can’t become a weapon in the culture wars, a hostage for one political party or ideology. It can’t be only for the rich or the poor, nor can it only be for one race, as it was until 1947. Baseball must always stand above politics and its dark elements of corruption, greed and sordid selfishness. It can’t go wrong by standing for national greatness,” wrote Vincent.
“The talk shows and editorial pages are full of questions,” he claimed that Manfred should have first protested the “substance of the law” before behaving out of “desperation” by imposing a boycott.
“What is the basis for acting so forcefully against Georgia? If Georgia is racist, how can baseball talk of doing business with China? Mr. Manfred failed to spell out specific criticisms of Georgia’s voting law.”
MLB has since relocated its ASG to Colorado, requiring voter ID, and has fewer early voting days than Georgia. “Now he’s put himself in the awkward position of having to defend Colorado’s voting laws,” wrote Vincent.
He pointed out that Manfred’s strategy effectively allowed him to bypass needing the player’s union and team owners’ approval. According to an ESPN reporter this week, league sources informed that the decision was made due to corporate pressure rather than a player-threatened boycott.
“The situation calls to mind the 2006 Duke lacrosse case, when many erred—like Mr. Manfred has here—by leaping to a conclusion based on assumptions rather than carefully considered facts. I’ve done the same thing, to my regret. Much rides on Mr. Manfred’s shoulders so he must be prudent. Perhaps he now sees how complicated these issues can become. I wish him well,” Vincent wrote.
“During my time as commissioner, I learned that the American people view baseball as a public trust. They want the game to stand for the best and noblest of our national virtues. They see baseball as the repository of their dreams, even as they root for their favorite teams. They don’t want, and won’t accept, anything that separates them from the game’s history and leadership.”