Major League Baseball (MLB) and the league’s players union were hit this week with a lawsuit for moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia earlier this year.
Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. answers questions from the media during spring training media day at the Glendale Civic Center in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb 19, 2019. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports)
The move affected scores of small businesses in Atlanta, including many owned by minorities, according to the suit, which was filed in federal court in New York.
After officials announced on April 2 that they were shifting the game to Colorado, more than 8,000 hotel reservations were canceled in the Atlanta area and Cobb County officials estimated the move would cost the local economy some $100 million. Past MLB All-Star events have brought in between $37 million and $190 million for the communities that host them.
MLB officials said they moved the game because of Georgia’s election integrity law, which was described by supporters as a way to bolster election security and by critics as racist and restrictive. Officials violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, the Equal Protection and Privileges and Immunities Clauses, and the Dormant Commerce Clause, the lawsuit charges.
The 2021 All-Star Game Logo is displayed on the screen prior to the game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves at Truist Park in Atlanta, Ga., on Sept. 24, 2020. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
“MLB Defendants intended to punish Georgians because their state enacted a reasonable ballot-integrity statute and to coerce Georgia and its duly elected government to surrender Georgia’s sovereignty in our federal system,” it states.
“Plaintiff and its members were injured as a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid conduct in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than $100 million. MLB Defendants’ conduct was willful and contumacious and designed to inflict substantial harm, including reputational harm, upon Plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court should award not less than $1 billion in punitive damages.”
MLB and its players union did not immediately respond to requests for comment. No defendants had lawyers listed on the court docket.
Job Creators Network, a small business lobbying group, filed the suit. They’re asking MLB and the union to pay money to businesses that won’t see revenue from the game now that it’s been moved.
“MLB robbed the small businesses of Atlanta—many of them minority-owned—of $100 million, we want the game back where it belongs,” Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the network, said in a statement.
“This was a knee-jerk, hypocritical, and illegal reaction to misinformation about Georgia’s new voting law which includes voter ID. Major League Baseball itself requests ID at will-call ticket windows at Yankee Stadium in New York, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and at ballparks all across the country.”