Almost immediately after Georgia Republicans approved new voting restrictions, Major League Baseball realized it had an important decision to make about this year's All-Star Game. On Friday afternoon, the league decided to move the game out of Georgia as punishment for targeting voting rights.
Major League Baseball on Friday pulled this year's All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new restrictive voting law. The "Midsummer Classic" was set for July 13 at Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, in addition to other activities connected to the game, including the annual MLB Draft.
"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," Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said in a statement. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."
To be sure, the baseball league is hardly alone in taking a stand in support of voting rights and against Republicans' voter-suppression tactics. By one count, roughly 200 prominent American businesses have announced opposition to GOP anti-voting tactics -- in Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere.
But it's Major League Baseball's decision that appears to have caused a collective freak-out among Republican leaders.
As the backlash to Georgia began in earnest, GOP officials faced a few choices. First, they could have reversed course on their brazen and unnecessary anti-voting measure, quickly ending the controversy. (There is some precedent for this.) Second, Republicans had the option of keeping their heads down, hoping that the intensity of the backlash would fade in the coming weeks and months, even as they advanced related voting restrictions elsewhere.
And third, the party had the option of lashing out wildly at those who had the audacity to support voting rights over Republican efforts to rig the democracy in their favor. Take a wild guess which of the three choices the GOP seems to prefer.
Of even greater interest was an announcement from Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who said he and his aide are in the process of "drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball's federal antitrust exception." The South Carolina Republican added that entities that oppose his party's election efforts "deserve increased scrutiny under the law."
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) took the same position.
And that's what makes the partisan backlash to the backlash notable. Trump throwing another tantrum isn't especially interesting. Indeed, the former president hasn't just called for a baseball boycott, he's also urging his followers to boycott all kinds of private entities -- airlines, banks, pharmaceutical companies, et al. -- that fail to toe the Republican line on voter-suppression measures.
The fact that Trump said all of this while decrying "cancel culture" was, at a minimum, ironic.
But it's the broader retaliatory campaign that matters. As we discussed last week, after Delta Airlines criticized Georgia's new voting restrictions, the GOP-led state House voted to scrap a lucrative state tax break that the airline currently enjoys. State House Speaker David Ralston (R) was quoted saying, "You don't feed a dog that bites your hand."
The effort ultimately didn't pass, though several GOP legislators in Georgia openly voiced their support for retaliating against private-sector allies for daring to speak up against their anti-voting efforts.
Soon after, Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Rodney Anderson, a former GOP state legislator, published a tweet that raised the prospect of denying tax incentives to Microsoft, American Airlines, and Dell after the corporate giants were critical of a pending voter-suppression bill in Texas. (The tweet was later deleted.)
Now, several congressional Republican intend to target Major League Baseball at the federal level because it had the audacity to move an exhibition game out of Atlanta.
As a practical matter, Jeff Duncan's bill will almost certainly be ignored, so the threat to the league is illusory. But the fact remains that Republicans are playing a ridiculous game: The party is systemically targeting the franchise, and then making retaliatory threats against those who dare to disagree.
Postscript: In case this isn't obvious, it's worth emphasizing that plenty of Democrats in Georgia weren't exactly pleased with Major League Baseball's decision. Stacey Abrams, among others, expressed disappointment about the All-Star Game being moved.
Democrats did not, however, announce plans to try to punish Major League Baseball or any other entity.