Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar on Sunday said Major League Baseball’s decision to pull its all-star game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new restrictive voting law adds to a history of boycotts that have pushed for justice.
“We know that boycotts have allowed for justice to be delivered in many spaces. The civil rights movement was rooted in boycotts. We know that, you know, apartheid ended in South Africa because of boycotts,” Omar told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “And so our hope is that, you know, this boycott would result in changes in the law because we understand that when you restrict people’s ability to vote, you create a democracy that isn’t fully functioning for all of us. And if we are to continue to be a beacon of hope for all democracies around the world, we must stand our ground.”
The MLB’s decision has garnered praise from opponents of the new election law and Democrats, who say the legislation, and similar measures being pushed by GOP lawmakers in other states, amounts to voter suppression efforts that will reduce minority voting. But the move also comes as a risk to Georgia’s tourism industry, one of the hardest hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, that is still struggling to rebound.
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A Cobb County tourism official estimated that the “lost economic impact” on the state from the MLB relocating its all-star Game would be more than $100 million.
Following the decision, Stacey Abrams, a Georgia Democrat and voting rights advocate who has blasted the new legislation as racist and comparable to Jim Crow-era policies, has said she respects boycotts, but called for athletes, businesses and entertainers to “stay and fight” – concerned that the move could financially hurt Georgians. And Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock also said while he respects MLB’s decision, he hopes to see those with influence fight against the state’s new law in person rather than boycotting the state.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama, meanwhile, congratulated the MLB for “taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens.”
Some high-profile Georgia based companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, have publicly denounced the sweeping voting measure – while some opponents of the law argue the companies hadn’t done enough to defeat it.
Seventy-two Black executives also signed a letter released Wednesday – before MLB’s decision – calling on colleagues in corporate America to “to join us in taking a non-partisan stand for equality and democracy” and to speak out against voting restriction laws.
Berkshire Hathaway director Kenneth Chenault, one of the executives who signed the letter, told CNN’s Abby Phillip on Sunday that MLB’s move is “a direct consequence of the action taken by the Georgia Legislature to restrict voting.”
“I want to be clear that our group does not favor boycotts. What we are asking, as you stated, is that corporations publicly oppose this type of legislation that restricts voting,” Chenault said on “Inside Politics.” “I think it’s unfortunate, but I can understand the Major League Baseball’s move, but we certainly wish it did not have to happen.”
But despite the backlash over the new law, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said at a news conference on Saturday that he “will not be backing down from this fight.”
“Cancel culture and partisan activists are coming for your business,” Kemp, who signed the measure into law last month, claimed. “Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the left, but I am not.”
Dubbed the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” the law allows state officials to take over local elections boards, imposes voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to give or offer voters food and drink as they wait in line to vote.
CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Eric Bradner and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.