Small Business Group Sues MLB Over All-Star Game, Alleges $100 Million In Damages To Atlanta Economy

Thomas Catenacci 

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Small business advocacy group Job Creators Network filed a federal lawsuit against Major League Baseball, demanding the league immediately return its All-Star game to Atlanta.

Job Creators Network (JCN) accused Major League Baseball (MLB) of illegally punishing Atlanta residents by moving the July 2021 game over the state’s new voting law, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday. The MLB’s move will cost the local economy at least $100 million, according to the tourism office in Cobb County, Georgia, the group said.

“MLB robbed the small businesses of Atlanta — many of them minority-owned — of $100 million, we want the game back where it belongs,” Job Creators Network President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz said in a statement Monday evening. “This was a knee-jerk, hypocritical and illegal reaction to misinformation about Georgia’s new voting law.”

Ortiz noted that while a main argument against Georgia’s voting legislation is its new voter ID requirement, the MLB itself requires customers to present identification at stadiums when picking up their tickets.

JCN accused the MLB of violating the Enforcement Act of 1871, which protects against actions that violate a person’s equal protection rights, a federal statute that provides remedy to individuals or entities whose federal rights have been violated, and a variety of other federal laws, according to the complaint.

“Defendants’ conspiratorial conduct has had a punitive impact on employment arising from the All-Star Game that would have been in Atlanta, Georgia but was deliberately moved to Denver, Colorado, based on conduct aimed to intimidate and punish local business, in violation of Plaintiff JCN and its members’ Equal Protection under the laws,” the lawsuit stated.

JCN posited that the MLB intentionally punished small business owners for a legislative move outside of their control. The league’s “conspiratorial conduct” had punitive damage on businesses in Atlanta, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also said JCN has had to “divert personnel” from fundraising efforts to address the “grave harm” inflicted upon the group’s thousands of Atlanta members. This has cost JCN about $1.6 million, the complaint stated.

In April, the MLB announced it was moving the All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver, Colorado because of Georgia’s voter integrity law. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation, which implemented voter ID rules and expanded poll hours.

But the MLB argued the bill was discriminatory and said it would move its All-Star game since the league opposed restrictions “to the ballot box.”

JCN pointed out that the league moved the All-Star game from a city with a 51% black population to a city where black people account for just 9% of the population. There are also 7.5 times more black-owned businesses in Georgia than in Colorado, the suit said.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred originally announced the Atlanta would be awarded the 2021 All-Star game on May 29, 2019. The game was set to be played at Atlanta’s Truist Park.

“Bringing the MLB All-Star Game to Atlanta will be an incredible showcase of [Truist Park], The Battery Atlanta and the city’s ability to host marquee sporting events,” Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO William Pate said in a statement in May 2019. “Visitors will enjoy shopping and chef-driven restaurants as well as a full list of fan-friendly events leading up to the game.”

The MLB was the first to estimate the All-Star game would generate $100 million for Atlanta’s economy.

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