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Why MLB's decision to move its All-Star Game was surprising

CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks some of the claims made by President Biden and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp about Georgia's new sweeping election law.

Posted: Apr 5, 2021 9:11 AM
Updated: Apr 5, 2021 9:11 AM

Major League Baseball's decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia after the state changed its voting laws is not an unprecedented move. Other major sports leagues and players have been fighting Republican politicians in this era.

What makes MLB's move different is that it's not known as a progressive league. Its players and fans are different from the NBA and NFL, the other most popular sports leagues that have been more front and center against moves made by Republicans.

The MLB is not the natural place you'd see a fight against a law that its critics believe is intended to harm minorities. Most MLB players are not Black. Just 8% of them were on the Opening Day rosters last year, according to a USA Today study. That's less than their 13% share of the adult population. About 60% of MLB players are White, according to a study from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

The same holds true in the ranks of its coaches and front office: the MLB is majority White, and White Americans tend to be more Republican leaning than people of color.

Nor is it the case that baseball's fanbase is overwhelmingly Black. Polling shows that baseball's fanbase is, in fact, mostly White. A March 2020 poll from the Washingington Post/University of Maryland showed that 49% of White adults were baseball fans, more than any other race. Just 39% of Black Americans were. Likewise, an Ipsos poll from March showed that Black Americans were less likely than White or Hispanics to be fans of baseball.

The same polling indicates that baseball fans did not lean to the left. The Washington Post poll put 47% of fans as Republican or Republican leaning compared to 45% as Democrats or Democratic leaning.

This means there likely wasn't the same pressure from fans or the players to move the game, as you might have seen from other sports. Indeed, ESPN's Howard Bryant reported that the players didn't threaten a boycott or even hold a vote on the issue.

The MLB is not in the same position the NBA was when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina. The league did so after the state passed a controversial law that said people in government-run facilities could only use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

The NBA's fanbase is much more Democratic leaning. According to a 2020 Marist College poll, 43% of Democrats were professional basketball fans. Just 28% of Republicans were.

We've seen both NBA players and coaches, as well as those in the WNBA, speak out against Republicans and then-President Donald Trump. And while we don't know the politics of all NBA players, they are from an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency: Black Americans. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics found that 74% of NBA players are Black. Polling shows that Black adults are 30 points more likely to be NBA fans than White adults.

Nor is the MLB in the same position as the NFL was when it moved its Super Bowl from Arizona about three decades ago. Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the league reacted. While the NFL's fanbase hasn't traditionally leaned to the left like fans of the NBA, about 60% of the players were Black when the move was made.

The NFL players were majority Black too when Trump blasted many of them in 2017 for not standing during the national anthem in order to protest police brutality and racism.

Some in the NFL's fan base did not take kindly to what the players did. Gallup found that the traditionally bipartisan league lost fans. Republicans were 15 points less likely to say they were professional football fans after the protests.

A big question after the MLB's move is whether it will face any type of the same fall out as the NFL did four years ago. The league's move is risky given who their fanbase is.

Of course, maybe the MLB doesn't care. It may just be doing what it thinks is right. Or it could be the case that the MLB will be happy so long as their corporate sponsors are happy with the move.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
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Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
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Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
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Grant9130204
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Boone8389111
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
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Lake24585417
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Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
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Wayne11946238
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Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
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Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
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Madison543371
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Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
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Williams459282
Perry449852
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Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
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Morrow383851
Fayette375853
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Adams360675
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Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
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