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Fans wrestle with MLB decision

Kemp backs voting law after Atlanta loses All-Star Game by MAE ANDERSON AND LEAH WILLINGHAM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | April 4, 2021 at 4:04 a.m.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

News of Major League Baseball's decision to pull this summer's All-Star Game from Georgia over its new voting law reverberated among fans Saturday, while Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to defend the measure, saying "free and fair elections" are worth any threats, boycotts or lawsuits.

The Republican governor said at a news conference that MLB "caved to fear and lies from liberal activists" when it yanked the July 13 game from Atlanta's Truist Park. He added the decision will hurt working people in the state and have long-term consequences on the economy.

"I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight. We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced," Kemp said.

"Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of [voting activist] Stacey Abrams, [President] Joe Biden and the left, but I am not," he said, referring to companies that have also criticized the new law.

Three groups already have filed a lawsuit over the measure, which adds greater legislative control over how elections are run and includes strict identification requirements for voting absentee by mail. It also limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line.

Critics say the law will disproportionately affect communities of color.

Georgia Republicans say the changes were needed to maintain voter confidence in the election system, and the governor insists opponents have mischaracterized what the law does. Yet GOP lawmakers made the revisions largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections made by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Baseball fans appeared divided on pulling the game from Georgia.

Patrick Smith, a lifelong Braves fan in Ellisville, Miss., said he thinks the league made the right decision and noted that not taking a stand would have polarized some supporters.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jEDectn-FM]

"When governments restrict access to the ballot box, someone has to step in to encourage these entities to roll back those measures," he said.

Lorre Sweetman, in Kahului, Hawaii, said it was a poor move by MLB because it wasn't based on the actual new voting laws but on "political pandering" and misinformation.

Still, while some fans upset about the decision have called for a boycott of professional baseball, she said she will not stop watching games and that her three grandsons are still learning the sport.

"They caved to pressure without considering the message this sends to fans who just want to enjoy the game and support their team," she said. "We need to take politics out of sports."

But Dick Pagano, a baseball fan in Elk Grove Village, Ill., said he will not watch or attend any games this year.

[DOCUMENT: Read Georgia's new voting law » arkansasonline.com/gavote2021/]

"They shot themselves in the foot," said Pagano, who added he will be disappointed to miss the planned Hank Aaron celebration during the All-Star Game, because he saw him play in the 1957 World Series. Aaron, who played for the Braves in Atlanta and Milwaukee for most of his career, faced extensive hate mail and racism as he closed in on breaking Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record.

Jeffrey Guterman, a retired mental health counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the decision shows baseball changing with the times.

"I'm surprised when people argue that moving it away from Atlanta is a bad move because it would bring lots of money to the area," he said. "The question is what costs more, moving the All-Star Game or reinforcing the oppression of votes."

The league did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Gallery: Georgia officials defend voting law

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/44gavote/]

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he made the call to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year. A new ballpark for the events wasn't immediately revealed.

Trump also blasted the league's move, while former President Barack Obama congratulated MLB for its decision, saying there was no better way for baseball to honor Aaron, "who always led by example."

Information for this article was contributed by Chevel Johnson and Colleen Slevin of The Associated Press.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets supporters after he speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets supporters after he speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A supporter wears a "Black Lies Matter" sign as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A supporter wears a "Black Lies Matter" sign as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp reads from a written speech as he speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp reads from a written speech as he speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta, about Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over the league's objection to a new Georgia voting law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred speaks on his phone as he watches a spring training baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Fort Myers, Fla.. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred speaks on his phone as he watches a spring training baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Fort Myers, Fla.. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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