- - Monday, April 5, 2021

So Atlanta is burning. The city, in losing baseball’s All-Star Game, is being laid to waste by Gen. Rob Manfred in the political culture war. 

At least that’s what we’re being told by the loudest Republican critics of baseball’s decision to relocate the game’s most star-studded event after Georgia lawmakers approved new regulations that some claim will suppress minority voting.

Manfred put baseball smack in the middle of the debate with his statement last week. 

“We have engaged in thoughtful conversations with clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” the commissioner said. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”



Gen. Sherman would agree.

Who’s next? How about Beijing?

This notion that baseball’s decision to pull the game out of Atlanta is some sort of “cancel culture” travesty is absurd. The game was awarded to Atlanta through politics and it was taken away because of politics — the controversial new Georgia voting law.

You can be sure that the governor’s office was heavily involved in the lobbying to convince baseball to bring the All-Star Game to Atlanta. Yes, the driving force was the team’s new ballpark — which isn’t even in Atlanta. But the governor’s office was likely very active, feeding them economic and yes, cultural information as their sales pitch for the game.

So stop with the outrage over baseball pulling the game.

I doubt the Mid-Summer Classic would have been awarded to Atlanta if Gov. Brian Kemp had told the commissioner as part of their pitch to host the game, “Rob, just to let you know — we’re planning on passing a new voting law that is ultimately based on the false belief that there is widespread election fraud.”

These decisions are always political. The NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona because the state refused to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. I can guarantee you they had been awarded the game in part because of government officials there presenting an image of the state that seemed attractive as a host. Then it didn’t seem so attractive, so they bailed.

Atlanta and the All-Star Game, though, is really a small blip on the political radar. The big one still looms — Beijing. Will the United States boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics because of China’s horrific human rights abuses?

Republican politicians are all for wielding that political power.

“To see the American flag and to see American athletes in Beijing celebrating what is the worst of the worst authoritarian regimes right now — I can’t imagine it,” Republican Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida told Fox News after he put forth a resolution to pull the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing.

He’s not alone — other Republican politicians have voiced their support to using the politics of the games to make a statement. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote that China “is more obviously dangerous today than Nazi Germany was in 1936” and called on the International Olympic Committee to pull the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing to another location.

The White House is considering the possibility. 

“There hasn’t been a final decision made on that, and of course we would look for guidance from the U.S. Olympic Committee,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in February.

Wouldn’t this be “cancel culture” too?

Of course it is not, just like Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta is not evidence of the “cancel culture.”

It’s exercising political pressure — the reverse of the political pressure used to land the event, whether it’s the All-Star Game or the Olympics.

The calls and concerns about human rights violations in China are hardly new. When Beijing was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics, critics and politicians voiced the same concerns.

Here was the response in 2001 from the IOC Executive Director François Carrard to those concerns: ‘’Some people say, because of serious human rights issues, ‘We close the door and say no.’ The other way is to bet on openness. Bet on the fact that in the coming seven years, openness, progress and development in many areas will be such that the situation will be improved. We are taking the bet that seven years from now we will see many changes.’’

How did that work out?

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Japanese residents are begging them to move the Summer Olympics — already postponed from last year due to COVID-19 — in a few months.

A Morning Consult poll conducted March 18-22 showed the majority of Japanese said the games should either be postponed again or canceled outright. A total of 61 percent of residents polled said the games should be canceled.

They would love some cancel culture in Tokyo.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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