When the NFL decided not to punish players who knelt during the pre-game national anthem, some fans responded by refusing to attend games, buy league merchandise, or watch matches on television.
It took the NFL several years to win back fans and some – like me – broke their habit and never returned, in person or on TV.
Last season some Major League Baseball (MLB) players also took a knee, but it didn’t feel as consistent to me as it was with the NFL. Maybe it has something to do with the difference in the number of games each sport plays? Apparently, however, MLB is now trying to catch up.
The commissioner announced last week that he was moving the 2021 All Star Game from Atlanta to a location yet to be determined. The reason given is that the league believes that a new Georgian law has made it more difficult for African Americans to vote. The charge was dismissed by Gov. Brian Kemp, who showed he has a backbone by refusing to back down in his support for the law, the purpose of which he claims is to boost voters’ confidence in the integrity elections. Those who have read the law say it does not say what critics claim.
Delta Airlines and The Coca-Cola Company, both based in Atlanta and caught between Democrats and Republicans, appeared to bow to considerable pressure to oppose election legislation for fear of bad publicity and widespread boycotts.
Bullies can only be encouraged by these answers. Where are the CEOs and others who have the courage to stand up for themselves and oppose people who have nothing better to do with their time than to demand the removal of Confederate statues, to change the name of dedicated highways to those who have views they disagree with, and engage in other unproductive behavior, like moving an All-Star game? Why don’t we hear them say “buzz off” or use even stronger language?
The MLB must know that its decision will have financial consequences. Atlanta employs large numbers of African Americans at ticket counters, concession stands, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, many of whom depend on baseball, especially an all-star game. Atlanta’s economy will suffer as the pandemic has hit many businesses.
A statement from the Atlanta Braves said the organization was “… deeply disappointed with the decision. … It was neither our decision nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans cannot see this. event in our city.… Our city has always been known as oneness in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues of importance to our community. Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision. “
Baseball fans will think they are taken for granted, just like NFL fans. They pay the best prices for tickets and help with publicity by watching sports broadcasts. They don’t want political correctness imposed on them. Sport is meant to be an oasis where people can escape the problems and politicians they have to endure elsewhere.
I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a kid. I fondly remember the games my father took me to when the Washington baseball team was known as the Senators. I have taken my children and grandchildren to national championship games for the past few years.
This Major League Baseball move may prove to be counterproductive for the brand and potentially harm the fan base. Just as I have found other things to do during the football season, so can I do when it comes to baseball, painful as that may be.
Washington baseball fans have been forced to exist without a team for 33 years. I suspect the District of Columbia and fans of other teams can do without it if MLB doesn’t change course. Otherwise, fans won’t sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, but “Take Me Out OF the Ballgame”.