For over the past year, NBA stars and coaches alike have spoken out on systemic racism and aligned with organizations that helped with voter turnout in marginalized communities. So unsurprisingly, a handful of NBA coaches applauded Major League Baseball for removing its All-Star game in Atlanta after Georgia passed voting bills that will disproportionately affect citizens of color.
“It’s great that they’re bringing attention what is happening in Georgia,” Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan said before Friday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. “I really don’t get it. Trying to find ways to keep people from having their right to vote.”
The Atlanta Braves were not as laudatory. In a statement, the Braves said they were “deeply disappointed” with MLB’s decision and noted that “businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are victims of this decision.”
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr also offered empathy to those in Georgia that will hurt financially. But he shifted blame away from MLB and steered it toward Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp who signed legislation by both state houses that would reduce voting by mail and absentee balloting and ban the distribution of food and water to those standing in line to vote.
Steve Kerr applauded MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta this summer after the state of Georgia passed voting bills that will disproportionately affect citizens of color.
“I was very excited that MLB made that decision. I think it’s very valuable for corporate America to make their voices heard when it comes to matters of democracy and justice,” Kerr said before Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. “I’m sad for the people involved that will be hurt economically, many of whom are workers, ushers, stadium employees and people who own restaurants in the area. All of those people are going to be financially impacted, but it’s good for states to have to think about that – the economic damage that comes with decisions to deny people democracy in their state. So I think MLB showed a lot of courage and so are the other companies that are doing the same thing.”
The NBA relocated its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of a North Carolina bill that required transgender bill to use restrooms, locker rooms or showers in government buildings and schools that matched their biological sex as opposed to their gender identity. The NBA hosted a quarantined All-Star game this year in Atlanta albeit before Georgia introduced voting suppression legislation amid unfounded claims of fraud in the presidential election.
The NBA has become increasingly involved with voting initiatives in the past year with 23 out of the league’s 30 teams opening its practice facility or arena as a voting site before or on Election Day. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James also founded More Than a Vote, which focused on improving voter turnout and reducing voter suppression in the Black community.
“I’m not surprised that a league would decide that they need to support their athletes in that regard and move the All-Star game out,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said before Friday’s game against Atlanta. “It’s pretty obvious what they’re trying to do in Georgia. It’s pretty obvious it’s anti democratic. I’m glad we have people standing up against it. If anyone can use their platform to influence these things, especially as something as basic to democracy as having the right to vote, then why wouldn’t you? I think it’s a great thing for Major League Baseball.”
Van Gundy then joked he might use his platform for more selfish reasons.
“I’m so strong on it that I think we should move Tuesday night’s game that’s supposed to be in Atlanta back here to New Orleans to make the same point. I haven’t talked to Nate about that. But just on principle,” Van Gundy joked. “If they don’t agree to move the game on Tuesday, then I will paint Nate McMillan and the Hawks’ front office as being against voting rights.”
That’s far from the case. The Hawks became one of most influential NBA teams to increase voting turnout in marginalized communities. The Hawks used State Farm Arena as an early voting venue to process absentee ballots for Georgia’s General Primary Runoff Election between July 20 and Aug. 11. McMillan, who is one of the NBA’s seven Black head coaches, has been among the most outspoken coaches on systemic racism.