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Why MLB’s decision to move its All-Star Game was surprising

Major League Baseball’s decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia after the state changed its voting laws is not an unprecedented move. Other major sports leagues and players have been fighting Republican politicians in this era.

What makes MLB’s move different is that it’s not known as a progressive league. Its players and fans are different from the NBA and NFL, the other most popular sports leagues that have been more front and center against moves made by Republicans.

The MLB is not the natural place you’d see a fight against a law that its critics believe is intended to harm minorities. Most MLB players are not Black. Just 8% of them were on the Opening Day rosters last year, according to a USA Today study. That’s less than their 13% share of the adult population. About 60% of MLB players are White, according to a study from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

The same holds true in the ranks of its coaches and front office: the MLB is majority White, and White Americans tend to be more Republican leaning than people of color.

Nor is it the case that baseball’s fanbase is overwhelmingly Black. Polling shows that baseball’s fanbase is, in fact, mostly White. A March 2020 poll from the Washingington Post/University of Maryland showed that 49% of White adults were baseball fans, more than any other race. Just 39% of Black Americans were. Likewise, an Ipsos poll from March showed that Black Americans were less likely than White or Hispanics to be fans of baseball.

The same polling indicates that baseball fans did not lean to the left. The Washington Post poll put 47% of fans as Republican or Republican leaning compared to 45% as Democrats or Democratic leaning.

This means there likely wasn’t the same pressure from fans or the players to move the game, as you might have seen from other sports. Indeed, ESPN’s Howard Bryant reported that the players didn’t threaten a boycott or even hold a vote on the issue.

The MLB is not in the same position the NBA was when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina. The league did so after the state passed a controversial law that said people in government-run facilities could only use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

The NBA’s fanbase is much more Democratic leaning. According to a 2020 Marist College poll, 43% of Democrats were professional basketball fans. Just 28% of Republicans were.

We’ve seen both NBA players and coaches, as well as those in the WNBA, speak out against Republicans and then-President Donald Trump. And while we don’t know the politics of all NBA players, they are from an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency: Black Americans. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics found that 74% of NBA players are Black. Polling shows that Black adults are 30 points more likely to be NBA fans than White adults.

Nor is the MLB in the same position as the NFL was when it moved its Super Bowl from Arizona about three decades ago. Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the league reacted. While the NFL’s fanbase hasn’t traditionally leaned to the left like fans of the NBA, about 60% of the players were Black when the move was made.

The NFL players were majority Black too when Trump blasted many of them in 2017 for not standing during the national anthem in order to protest police brutality and racism.

Some in the NFL’s fan base did not take kindly to what the players did. Gallup found that the traditionally bipartisan league lost fans. Republicans were 15 points less likely to say they were professional football fans after the protests.

A big question after the MLB’s move is whether it will face any type of the same fall out as the NFL did four years ago. The league’s move is risky given who their fanbase is.

Of course, maybe the MLB doesn’t care. It may just be doing what it thinks is right. Or it could be the case that the MLB will be happy so long as their corporate sponsors are happy with the move.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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