On April 2, Major League Baseball announced that it was moving this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta to protest the passage of the state’s new election law, S.B. 202, which is widely seen as infringing on voting rights. JEP has come into possession of a partial transcript of the Executive Committee meeting where the decision was made. Present were Commissioner Rob Manfred (RM), Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem (DH), Chief Communications Officer Pat Courtney (PC), Chief People and Culture Officer Michele Meyer-Shipp (MMS), General Counsel Lara Pitaro Wisch (LPW) and CFO Bob Sharkey (BS).
* * *
RM: OK guys, we got a problem with this voting law in Georgia. I just got off the phone with Tony Clark at the Players Association and it was not pretty. He wants us to move the All-Star game out of Atlanta. Coke and Delta have already come out with statements condemning this thing. Even Joe Biden’s against this thing. What’re we gonna do?
PC: We’ve got to move the game boss. Social media will be all over us if we don’t. If we move it, it’ll be a two-day story — the initial announcement and then the follow-on about the new host city. Then we move on.
RM: Dan, what do you think?
DH: Oh my god, I’m not sure, it’s a big deal if we pull out — the All-Star game generates about $100 million for host cities. A lot of people in Atlanta won’t be happy. Even Stacey Abrams doesn’t support a boycott.
BS: Guys, let’s just do a quick plus-delta. What are the facts here? Has anybody read the damn bill? I’ve heard a lot of stuff about it, but what’s true and what isn’t? Biden made a couple of statements about it last week and the Washington Post gave him four Pinocchios. Even he doesn’t know what’s in this thing. Pulling the game is serious business. Let’s make sure we’re doing the right thing.
PC: I’m not exactly sure what it does, but the optics are bad.
RM: You can say that again. Biden keeps yelling about Jim Crow 2.0. Is Jim Crow a player, can somebody check on that?
LPW: Rob, I’ve read the bill. Surprisingly, it has some positives in it. It expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. Also, for the first time, drop boxes will be authorized for all counties statewide and poll workers will be allowed to work across county lines.
MMS: Yeah, but it prevents people from handing out water to voters who are standing in line and it requires voters to show ID. Plus, it takes oversight away from the Secretary of State, which is like pulling a winning pitcher in the middle of the game — makes no sense.
RM: You guys are not helping me here.
PC: Look, with Coke and Delta, the Players Association, the Atlanta Journal Constitution — even POTUS for gosh sakes — against this thing, you’ve got the wind at your back if you pull the game. Net-net, it will play better in the media, believe me.
RM: It better. I don’t want to go through another shit show like the World Series trophy presentation last year. With all the booing, and all those margaritas I had up in the box, I had no idea what was happening. And then before that, calling the World Series trophy “just a piece of metal” — c’mon, I need a win here.
PC: Voting is as American as apple pie. It fits right into the baseball brand. People won’t question our decision to pull the game.
RM: So we’re at a decision point? Pull the game?
BS: Well, we should talk a little bit about next steps. If not Atlanta, where?
DH: Denver’s already reached out. Colorado’s a purple state, Covid’s pretty much under control there. And we’ll be able to just have some edibles and enjoy the game.
LPW: Hold on — if we do take this route, what about China?
RM: What about China?
LPW: We just announced the huge deal with Tencent to expand streaming across China. Voting and rights are two words you can’t put beside each other in a sentence when it comes to China. Plus, there’s the Uyghurs, the re-education camps, Hong Kong, the theft of American technology, do you want me to go on? China makes Georgia look like the Athens of democracy.
RM: Oh god, I need a margarita.
PC: Look, let’s table that for now. China’s complicated. And we haven’t had a single call to do anything about it.
BS: I won’t even mention the revenue coming out of China!
MMS: OK, another consideration — Rob, are you ready to give up your membership at Augusta National and bail on the Masters next week? Last time I looked at the map, Augusta is right in the middle of Georgia.
RM: (Frowning, stares at the table; there’s a long silence.)
PC: Boss, why don’t we play this as it lays. We pull the All-Star game and wait to see if we get blowback on China or the Masters. I’ll time the announcement of the new host city to tamp down collateral noise as much as we can.
RM: Perfect! Let’s put out a statement today!
PC: Well, today’s April 1, we might not be taken seriously, how about tomorrow?
RM: Perfect! Anybody want to grab lunch?
This really is “just exactly perfect” as it underlines the hypocrisy the MLB has demonstrated. Any chance I can send this to the MLB ” we want to hear from you: email address?
Hypocrisy in MLB? Please add the NBA and the NFL so we get it correct on professional sports.
Thank you Jim! Sports, big business etc, are better off minding their own business. I think it’s a form of intimidation when the CEO make their position so public. If you were an employee and felt their “political stand” was wrong, would you publicly speak up and voice your opposition? Most would not out of fear of losing their job.
Good point Bob. Thanks,