Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Take me out of the ballgame

- Cal Thomas Distribute­d by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

When the NFL decided not to punish players who kneeled during the pregame national anthem, some fans reacted by refusing to attend games, buy league merchandis­e or watch games on TV.

It took several years for the NFL to win fans back, and some — like me — broke the habit and never returned, in person or on TV.

Last season, some Major League Baseball players also took a knee, but it did not appear to me to be as regular an occurrence as with the NFL. Perhaps it had something to do with the difference in the number of games each sport plays? Apparently, though, MLB is now trying to play catch-up.

The league announced last week it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta and said Tuesday that the new site will be Coors Field in Denver. The stated reason is because the league believes a new Georgia law has made it more difficult for African Americans to vote.

The charge has been denied by Gov. Brian Kemp, who has demonstrat­ed he has a backbone by refusing to back down in his support of the law, the purpose of which he claims is to boost voter confidence in the integrity of elections. Those who have reportedly read the law say it doesn’t say what critics claim.

Delta Airlines and the Coca-Cola Co., both headquarte­red in Atlanta and caught between Democrats and Republican­s, have appeared to bow to considerab­le pressure to oppose the voting legislatio­n for fear of bad publicity and widespread boycotts.

Bullies can only be encouraged by these responses. Where are the CEOs and others who have the nerve to stand their ground and oppose people with nothing better to do with their time than to demand the removal of Confederat­e statues, change the names of highways dedicated to those who held viewpoints 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?

MLB must know there will be financial consequenc­es to their decision. Atlanta employs many African Americans in front offices, at concession stands, restaurant­s, hotels and other businesses, many of which rely on baseball, especially an All-Star Game. Atlanta’s economy will take a hit at a time when the pandemic has hurt many businesses.

A statement by the Atlanta Braves said the organizati­on is “deeply disappoint­ed by the decision . ... This was neither our decision, nor our recommenda­tion and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city . ... Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunit­y to address issues that are important to our community. Unfortunat­ely, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

Baseball fans will think they are being taken for granted, as did fans of the NFL. They pay top prices for tickets and contribute to advertisin­g dollars by watching sports broadcasts.

They don’t want political correctnes­s forced upon them. Sports are supposed to be an oasis where people can escape from the issues and politician­s they have to endure elsewhere.

I have been a baseball fan since I was a child. I fondly remember games my dad took me to when the Washington baseball team was known as the Senators. I have taken my kids and grandchild­ren to Nationals games in recent years.

This move by MLB may prove counterpro­ductive to the brand and potentiall­y harm the fan base. Just as I have found other things to do during football season, I can do likewise when it comes to baseball, as painful as that will be.

Washington baseball fans were 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 reverse course.

If not, fans won’t be singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but “Take Me Out OF the Ballgame.”

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 ?? JOHN AMIS/AP ?? During the shortened 2020 season, cardboard cutouts of fans occupied seats at a baseball game in Atlanta.
JOHN AMIS/AP During the shortened 2020 season, cardboard cutouts of fans occupied seats at a baseball game in Atlanta.

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