April 2 (Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Robert Manfred said the league was relocating its 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft from Atlanta, following outcry over Georgia's new voting restrictions.
"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft," Manfred said in a written statement.
"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."
Georgia last week strengthened identification requirements for absentee ballots, shortened early voting periods for runoffs and made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.
The law, which was endorsed by the state's Republican Governor Brian Kemp, faces legal challenges as civil rights groups say it aims to suppress voting among Black people and other racial minorities.
Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democratic President Joe Biden has been sharply critical of the law and on Wednesday said he would support moving the July All-Star Game out of the state as a form of protest, telling ESPN "This is Jim Crow on steroids what they're doing in Georgia."
Commissioner Manfred said MLB made the decision after consulting with individual clubs as well as current and former players, adding the league was finalizing plans for a new host city.
"Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support," said Manfred, a day after the league kicked off its 2021 regular season.
The lucrative All-Star Game is a coveted hosting opportunity for ballparks across North America.
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom appeared to offer up his home state for the hosting gig shortly after the announcement, tweeting: "Hey @MLB — feel free to give us a call. In California we actually work to expand voter access -- not prevent it."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and David Shepardson in Washington, D.C. Editing by Chris Reese)