Editor's note: Today is 53rd anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.
GUEST BLOG / OPINION/ By Mike Freeman, USA Today--If you want to know what courage looks like, look at Major League Baseball right now. They saw the naked, jingoistic racism of voter suppression in Georgia, and in response, decided to move this year's All-Star game from the state.
"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday, "is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft."
That's what guts look like.
If you want to know what total capitulation looks like, what cowardice looks like, what the wrong side of history looks like, what running scared looks like, what you will use as an example to your kids of how not to act, look no further than the Atlanta Braves.
After baseball released its statement, the Braves released theirs, and I'm surprised they were able to use a laptop with their fingers shaking so much from fear of the voting suppression extremists. “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," the statement said. "The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. 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."
This isn't just tone deaf. Look up tone deaf in the dictionary and there are the Braves smoking a cigarette. First, the idea that Atlanta has always been a "uniter" shows a level of historical ignorance that is stunning from people who should know better.
Atlanta may have been the center of the civil rights movement but to say it has always been a "uniter" is a farce.
No city in the South has always been a "uniter."
No city in America has.
Second, their statement is acceptance of the racism of the new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans. There's no other way to look at it. Either you are for democracy or you are not. You will hear all the coded language and lies about "cancel culture" and other nonsense, but what baseball did was position itself on the side of true American values.
This is an existential crisis and the Braves failed to meet the moment.
But Baseball Commissioner Manfred did and his actions can be a call to action for everyone. He gave sports leagues and businesses a roadmap on how to fight. The NFL, NBA and NCAA have said little since the voting restrictions went into place.
Major businesses like Coca-Cola and Delta have released statements but taken no actions.
Only baseball has demonstrated the proper amount of guts, and it's glorious to see.
The NFL Falcons could take similar steps by moving some of its games. The NBA Hawks, too. The NFL could easily, and I mean easily, declare it will never hold a Super Bowl in Atlanta until voting rights are restored. The SEC could do the same with its championship game. It is true that such boycotts would financially impact some working people of Atlanta like concession stand workers and businesses that thrive off the crowds attending the games.
But those same people are having their access to voting diminished with a bevy of suppression laws.
Two key parts of the new restrictions gives the Republican-controlled state government the power to assert control over elections in Democratic counties. The new restrictions also limit how voters can receive food and drink within a certain vicinity of a voting location. These are draconian tactics and astoundingly anti-democratic. They are un-American in every way. No American should want them. Manfred did the right thing in fighting these laws. Every sport, every business in the country, could learn from what Manfred did. They could also learn from the Braves, on what not to do. On what gutlessness looks like.