ATLANTA – Atlanta was stripped of baseball’s All-Star Game over the summer, but it has the World Series now. And Republicans are gloating.
The moment the Braves clinched the National League pennant Saturday, Republicans began dunking on Major League Baseball and Democrats over July’s All-Star Game being yanked from Truist Park in protest over Georgia’s restrictive voting law.
When the game was shifted to Denver, Republicans pilloried baseball and Democrats in a culture-war uprising that in part served to salve the Georgia GOP’s internal wounds. They claimed then that the loss of All-Star festivities would hurt low-wage workers and cost metro Atlanta’s economy, but economists say those claims were wildly inflated. Even some business owners who took part in Republican protests against the decision in April say they are now more focused on looking forward.
Sandra Cook of Catered Southern Events does catering for several hotels in the area near Truist Park in suburban Cobb County. Cook, who appeared with Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at an event denouncing the game's departure, said restaurants all over the region “had lost so much” as COVID-19 cases surged earlier this year. Cook said she’s happy for businesses now getting a boost from baseball.
“Maybe we’ll make it back up with the World Series,” she said.
Many Georgia GOP leaders, though, stepped right back into the batter's box to continue political baseball.
“While Stacey Abrams and the MLB stole the All-Star Game from hardworking Georgians, the Braves earned their trip to the World Series this season and are bringing it home to Georgia,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted moments after the Braves clinched the National League.
Republican Attorney General Chris Carr filmed a video in front of Truist Park calling it “poetic justice” that the World Series would be played in Atlanta after the All-Star Game was “stolen from us.”
Abrams, who's considering a rematch against Kemp in 2022, publicly called for baseball not to boycott Georgia, despite Republicans' eagerness to tar her with that brush. More broadly, other in-state Democrats also opposed the pullout. They say Republicans had only themselves to blame after Kemp signed a new law muscled though by Republicans that made major changes to Georgia's voting law. Republicans were under pressure from Donald Trump supporters who believe, despite a lack of evidence, that the former president was cheated out of Georgia's 16 electoral votes.
Trump called Major League Baseball on Wednesday to ask for tickets to Saturday's game against the Houston Astros, a spokesperson for the Braves said. A spokesperson for MLB didn't respond to an email seeking comment. In April, Trump called on people to "boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with free and fair elections.”
Teri Anulewicz, a Democrat in the Georgia state House whose district includes Truist Park, said Republicans “are continuing to try to stoke division.”
“I have such dismay that leading Republicans have decided to exploit this moment of joy and the success of the Atlanta Braves and try to turn it into a talking point about the All-Star Game” Anulewicz said.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he made the decision to move the All-Star events after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year, and that the league opposed restrictions to the ballot box. Tuesday in Houston, Manfred told reporters that the Braves “earned their right” to be in the series.
“We always have tried to be apolitical,” Manfred said, citing a diverse fan base. “Obviously, there was a notable exception this year. I think our desire is to try to avoid another exception to that general rule.”
Opponents blamed relocating the All-Star Game for hefty economic losses, but many economists question the figures that were thrown around, most commonly $100 million.
J.C. Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, said his studies have shown that an entire baseball season generates maybe an extra $150 million in spending in Cobb County. Bradbury said he believes people spend money they generally would have spent at other locations in metro Atlanta. It's a tiny slice of the region's $422 billion annual economy.
“It's largely just a redistribution of dollars,” Bradbury said.
Corey Stephens, a partner at Thompson Brothers Barbecue in Smyrna, said his restaurant less than a mile from the stadium may get a few extra customers, but he doesn’t expect a huge influx.
“They may come before the game, but we’re more of a neighborhood place,” Stephens said, saying moving the All-Star game wasn’t much of a concern.
But at The Battery, the neon-studded entertainment district built around the stadium, parking decks were packed and lines of fans snaked around many restaurants during the team’s final home game of the National League Championship Series.
At Baseballism, an apparel store in the development, manager Thomas Brown said people without tickets gathered outside just to be close. He said he would have liked to have seen the Braves make history by being the first team to host the All-Star Game and the World Series in the same year. But he'll settle for the World Series.
“With them taking the All-Star game away, that week was just dead,” Brown said. “Everyone was just deflated; everyone was just defeated. Now, we’re going to have a full week of events with the World Series rather than just two days with the All-Star game.”
Associated Press writer Ron Blum contributed from Houston.