ARLINGTON, Texas — Hours before the Texas Rangers were set to have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the first home opener at the new Globe Life Field stadium, the governor announced he would no longer participate in any Major League Baseball events, including Monday's game.
The governor also said the state of Texas would not "not seek to host the All-Star game or any other MLB special events" and sent a letter to the Rangers explaining his decision.
Abbott said his announcement was in reaction to the league's decision to move its 2021 All-Star game and Draft from Atlanta after Georgia passed a controversial new voting law that critics say will support voter suppression while proponents argue the law will uphold "election integrity."
The law, SB 202, is part of a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced across the country after the 2020 November election, WFAA's sister stations in Georgia report.
Georgia's law places new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative oversight of elections.
The 95-page bill includes things like:
- Requiring an ID number, like a driver’s license, to apply for an absentee ballot
- Cutting off absentee ballot applications 11 days before an election
- Limiting the number of absentee ballot drop boxes
- Allowing the state to take control of what it calls “underperforming” local election systems
- Disallowing volunteers from giving away food and drink to voters waiting in lines
Opponents of the law say it will mostly impact urban counties with more Democrats and have referred to it as 'Jim Crow 2.0.'
Abbott himself is a proponent of such "election integrity" laws, with similar proposals being worked on in the Texas legislature that would limit how and when voters could cast their ballots, as well as other limitations around mail-in voting after the pandemic led to a surge in voters submitting their ballots in new ways to avoid in-person interaction.
The Texas governor said it is "shameful that America's pastime is being influenced by partisan politics."
He was originally supposed to throw out the first pitch at the Rangers game with several "frontline heroes" to represent the healthcare workers, teachers and educators and the U.S. military that have served American communities throughout the pandemic. A Rangers representative said those frontline heroes will still be participating in the ceremonial first pitch before the game.
The team is also further honoring those serving Texas communities through its "Rangers Reliever Program," which allows people to nominate Texas residents over age 18 who "give their resources and time to aid the community, including first responders, military and medical personnel, teachers, grocery store workers, and more."
Abbott claims he still has "deep respect" for the Rangers organization. To read his full letter to the baseball team, click here.
The push in new voting laws comes after many people of color voted for the first time in 2020, in numbers that some political observers believe were integral to nationwide election results. The election came on the heels of a national reckoning with racial injustice ignited by the death of George Floyd.
A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, is currently on trial for his role in Floyd's death.
The league's Commissioner of Baseball, Robert D. Manfred Jr., unequivocally said the league would not abide by laws like Georgia's and that the best way to demonstrate the values of the sport is to relocate the game out of Atlanta.
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box… Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” Manfred said in part in a statement when the decision was made last week.
GOP leaders across the country have attacked the league for its decision as the party seeks to pass similar laws in other states. But corporations and other sports leagues have begun to denounce such efforts, including here in Texas.