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The Battle For The U.S. Senate Will Be On Display During Baseball's All-Star Game

Coors Field in downtown Denver, where Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be held Tuesday night. The game was originally to be held in the Atlanta area.
Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies
Getty Images
Coors Field in downtown Denver, where Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be held Tuesday night. The game was originally to be held in the Atlanta area.

As baseball's All-Star festivities begin Monday night in Denver, a new political attack ad is hoping to remind viewers that the game was once supposed to be held in Georgia.

The commercial, paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, hearkens back to the spring, when outcry mounted over a new restrictive voting law engineered by Republican lawmakers in Georgia. Corporations — including Major League Baseball — came under intense pressure to speak out against it.

The MLB's All-Star Game, which had been scheduled to take place at the Atlanta Braves' stadium just outside of Atlanta, fell under the heat of the spotlight. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced in April it would be relocated to Denver.

The new ad focuses on the economic impact of the move, blaming "the radical left woke crowd," and specifically Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.

"Baseball's mid-summer classic, the All-Star Game: A $100 million boost to Georgia's economy, until the radical left woke crowd took it all away, forcing the MLB to boycott Georgia," the ad's voiceover says.

It will run during both Monday night's Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game Tuesday night.

The ad is part of the Senate Republicans' campaign to take back Georgia's Senate seats, both of which went to Democrats in a dramatic runoff electionlast January. Because Warnock was elected to fill a seat previously vacated by the retirement of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, he will face reelection in November 2022.

"The MLB All-Star Game will be bittersweet for baseball fans in Georgia as they watch a game played in a packed stadium in Denver instead of Atlanta, where it should be. Sadly, it was their very own Senator who helped run the All-Star Game and $100 million out of Atlanta," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the NRSC, said in a statement announcing the ad purchase.

Following the Republican losses in the U.S. Senate runoff election, along with Georgia's vote for Biden in November, Republican state lawmakers in Georgia rolled back access to absentee voting, which had expanded during the pandemic.

The controversial law added a variety of restrictions to absentee voting and made it easier for partisans to control the election process. Supporters stress that it expands early voting access for some counties. The U.S. Department of Justice announced last month it would sue Georgia over the new restrictions, saying they target Black voters.

Facing pressure from liberals, the MLB, along with Georgia-based companies Delta and Coca-Cola, disavowed the law.

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred said in a press release announcing the relocation last April.

Now, it's Denver businesses preparing for the influx of baseball fans, not Atlanta. Many hotels were sold out over the weekend, according to Colorado Public Radio. Owners of restaurants near the stadium downtown, a normally busy area that was empty of office workers for much of the last year, say they are looking forward to the influx of visitors.

"I think it means a lot to everyone in the sense that it kind of fills in some of those gaps," Erik Riggs, whose restaurant Freshcraft is near the baseball stadium, told CPR.

Republicans have latched on to the economic aspect of the move, framing the MLB and Georgia as the victims of wokeism.

A tourism board in Cobb County, Ga., where the Braves stadium is located, estimated in April that the move would cost Georgia more than $100 million. (Estimates released each year by the MLB show that the economic impact for All-Star Game host cities is typically somewhat lower than $100 million. Additionally, the ongoing pandemic is likely to have an effect.)

The NRSC cut its first ad on the issue by mid-April, linking Warnock with the move by playing a brief clip of an interview the senator gave with CNN, implying he supported the boycott. PolitiFact called that suggestion "false."

The Republican committee has already poured more than $1 million into ads for the 2022 election cycle, largely targeting Warnock and a handful of other Democratic senators it sees as vulnerable over their support of HR 1, the Democrat-led voting legislation that has yet to pass the Senate.

"The NRSC is proud to remind voters in GA of the urgent need to replace Warnock next November," the committee tweeted Thursday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.