A small-business advocacy group has sued Major League Baseball over its decision to relocate the All-Star Game to Denver, seeking an order requiring the league to return the game to Atlanta or pay local companies $100 million in damages.
The lawsuit filed Monday by Job Creators Network in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said the game was “ripped away by fear and misinformation spewed by political activists” over the Georgia election law signed in March.
“MLB robbed the small businesses of Atlanta — many of them minority-owned — of $100 million, we want the game back where it belongs,” Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, said in a statement.
The lawsuit also names the MLB Players Association and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who announced April 2 that the game would be moved out of Truist Park in Atlanta “to demonstrate our values as a sport,” referring to the election law decried by Democrats as “Jim Crow 2.0.”
Republicans argued that the law shores up election integrity by adding a voter-identification requirement for absentee voting; rolling back the number of drop boxes from pandemic levels; banning handing out drinks and food to those waiting in line; and expanding early voting.
“This was a knee-jerk, hypocritical and illegal reaction to misinformation about Georgia’s new voting law which includes Voter-ID,” said Mr. Ortiz, who added that MLB teams request identification at will-call ticket windows.
The lawsuit “demands the immediate return” of the July 13 game to Atlanta, or requires the league to pay $100 million in damages to local and state small businesses that took a financial hit with the loss of the major sport’s attraction.
That included the loss of 8,000 hotel reservations as well as revenue from ticket sales, game concessions and events timed to the All-Star weekend, which has recently generated between $37 million and $190 million for the host community, the lawsuit said.
@MLB could strike out over moving the All-Star game from Atlanta with a lawsuit that was filed.https://t.co/SEGcWfKW7n— Job Creators Network (@JobCreatorsUSA) June 1, 2021
The Georgia election law has been decried as racist, which Republicans deny, but Mr. Ortiz said that Black communities will be hit hardest by the MLB’s move, given that Atlanta is 51% Black and has about 7.5 times more minority-owned businesses than Denver, which is 76% White, the largest White percentage of any MLB city.
“The harm done to the communities of Atlanta, Cobb County and the state of Georgia would be devastating at the worst possible time, as they’re still recovering from COVID-19,” Mr. Ortiz said.
The Job Creators Network previously ran a cheeky digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square calling for Mr. Manfred to move the game back to Atlanta with the slogan: “Hey, Rob, All Strikes & No Balls?”
A number of high-profile past and present athletes applauded the MLB’s decision, including NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who tweeted, “Way to be a leader and take a strong stance!”
“We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process,” Mr. Manfred said in his April statement. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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