The Conservative Movement Takes on Woke Baseball
'Through intimidation and coercion, corporations are caving to the left,' Meese told TAC
Back in April, Major League Baseball announced that it was moving its annual All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia. The league’s decision was based on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing SB 202, also known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, with the goal of comprehensively reforming the state’s election laws. The most relevant portions of SB 202 institute voter identification requirements, expand early voting, and restrict absentee ballot request forms from being distributed to voters.
Despite the modest reforms introduced by the bill, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred insisted that the league was obligated to change the location of All-Star Week as “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport,” adding that “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
It’s unclear why SB 202 conflicts with that commitment, given that the bill expands early voting opportunities. In fact, the MLB is headquartered in New York, which offers nine days of early voting compared to Georgia’s 17 days. New York also requires voters to offer a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, while Georgia does not require such justification. Nonetheless, it seems unlikely that the league will be moving its headquarters out of New York to demonstrate its “values.”
Further, Voter ID laws have become the center of many partisan battles, though a Rasmussen poll from earlier this year found that 69 percent of black voters and three-fourths of all Americans support such policies. Likewise, an AP-NORC poll indicated that 72 percent of Americans support voter ID requirements.
Some have pointed out that SB 202 forbids anyone from offering voters food or drink while they wait in line at polling stations. This misconception is based on Section 33 of the bill, which says, “No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector.” Many other states have similar provisions against attempted bribery, including New York.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped President Joe Biden from labeling SB 202 as “Jim Crow on steroids” or Senator Chuck Schumer from decrying the bill as “racist voter suppression.” The MLB quickly caved to anticipated political pressure, deciding to move the All-Star Week festivities—and the corresponding economic stimulus that comes with them—from the majority-black Atlanta to Denver, which is 70 percent white and only 10 percent black. How’s that for racial justice?
The decision led the Job Creators Network (JCN) to sue the MLB, following a Cobb County Travel and Tourism Bureau estimate that moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta will cost local businesses over $100 million in economic activity. The American Constitutional Rights Union (ACRU) joined former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese in filing an amicus brief in support of JCN’s case against the MLB on June 7, arguing that the league is not only hurting their own business as well as the Atlanta community, but may also be violating their legal obligations to stakeholders in the process.
“Do private businesses have the right to conduct their operations as they see fit? In most cases the answer is yes,” said ACRU President Lori Roman. “Unless they are in breach of contracts or unless that private business is really acting on behalf of government officials who are trying to tilt elections toward one party.”
The ACRU notes that the MLB made the decision just days after President Biden and other political leaders attacked the legislation, suggesting that the league’s motivation was heavily influenced by government officials.
“There used to be a general affinity between American politics and businesses. But today, through intimidation and coercion, corporations are caving to the Left,” Meese explained. “The MLB is operating against its consumer base without any fear of retribution.”
The change observed by Meese is self-evident, with one mega corporation after another jumping on every social justice bandwagon, from attacking “whiteness” to redesigning company logos with rainbow colors. These shameless attempts to win brownie points from left-wing activists likely alienate many Americans, but clearly not enough to slow the momentum of woke capitalism.
“For too long, conservatives have blindly supported corporations,” Roman added. “While trying to support ‘free markets’ we might inadvertently be supporting corporatism, a form of economic totalitarianism where government and corporations collude to destroy individual rights.”
Major League Baseball’s crusade against nonexistent voter suppression in Georgia is just another iteration of corporate virtue signaling. Beyond that, it’s another indication for conservatives that business can, in fact, be antipathetic to our cause. As Roger Scruton noted years ago, “Big business is ideologically neutral. Big business always moves where the money is. If the money is in left-wing propaganda, that’s where big business will be.”
Michael Huling is a graduate student at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and an editorial intern for The American Conservative.