Major League Baseball announced on April 2 that it will move this season’s All Star Game, the high-profile event that had been scheduled Atlanta in July, out of Georgia in response to Georgia’s new controversial voting law. Full transparency: I was looking forward to the Game coming to our new MLB ballpark located near Espyr’s offices though maybe not the increased traffic!
The MLB decision came 8 days after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the legislation into to law. The Commissioner of Baseball said that the best way to demonstrate MLB’s values was to relocate the event. This year’s game was to include honoring Atlanta’s own Henry Aaron, the Hall of Fame player and civil rights activist who passed away in January. (See my blog, Quiet Power.)
Georgia’s Governor hastily signed the voting bill into law hours after it passed in the Georgia legislature by a party line vote. The optics of that signing ceremony could have been better. The Governor signed the bill surrounded by a decidedly non-diverse contingent of 6 white men and in front of a romanticized portrait of a Georgia plantation mansion. A plantation where hundreds of Black people were enslaved for generations. (Slave cabins were conveniently not visible.) Outside of the signing ceremony, two law enforcement officers confronted a Black female legislator who had knocked on the door to attempt to gain entry to witness the signing. She was handcuffed, arrested, and now faces charges that could mean years in prison. Not good optics for a law that many feel is aimed at suppressing votes of Black Georgians.
MLB stripping Atlanta of this high visibility, economically enriching celebration of baseball was only one part of a large outcry at the new Georgia voting law. Atlanta-based Coca Cola also criticized the law as restricting voter access, as did a coalition of Black CEOs, the NAACP, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and numerous other companies. President Biden called it a new type of Jim Crow law (he was referencing the anti-civil rights laws enacted in the Deep South after newly freed slaves were enfranchised). Multiple lawsuits challenging the legislation have been filed. Governor Kemp defended the law as protecting election security and expanding access. He hasn’t yet explained how making it illegal to give a person in line to vote a drink of water expands access or secures election integrity. It seems to me a law to make illegal an act of kindness.
Corporate push-back to the new law comes in the context of Atlanta’s proud embrace of diversity and civil rights during the last century. Of being the home of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and many other civil rights icons. Of legendary Black athletes like Henry Aaron and progressive public figures like President Jimmy Carter. Of embracing the motto of the “City Too Busy To Hate”. Of securing not only the MLB’s Braves and the NBA’s Hawks moving to the South but also giving the NFL its first Southern team. That, plus hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics Games, building the world’s busiest airport, hosting growing universities with extremely diverse students, and becoming home to numerous Fortune 500 companies.
I write this from the perspective of a mental health professional. One that sees the racial undertones to this type of legislation. One that has been gratified to see how the public spotlight has shown recently on the systemic racism that diminishes many institutions in our society. And one that understands that racism and discrimination has a demonstrable negative impact on people’s health, mental health, and wellbeing. I’m also gratified that MLB, Coca Cola, Delta Airlines and many other employers understand that not speaking out about inequity is being complicit with it, whether as individuals or as work organizations.
Has your work organization taken a stand about Georgia’s voting law? Maybe your employer is not located in Georgia and you think your organization should keep its voice local. I understand and say don’t worry. You chance will come. Laws like Georgia’s are pending in over 40 other states, probably one near you.
About the Author
Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.
For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.
The great leap backward
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia NAACP urges action by all; Delta CEO calls election law “unacceptable”
CBS News 46 Atlanta