Add Gov. Greg Abbott to the list of people mad at Major League Baseball over its decision to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to restrictive new voting laws in Georgia. (Not to be confused with the other list of people mad specifically at the Texas Rangers for opening Globe Life Field to 100 percent capacity for today’s home opener; it’s the only MLB team to do so.)
Abbott, who had previously agreed to throw the first pitch at this afternoon’s game, is backing out. In a letter to the Rangers, he blamed a “false narrative about the election law reforms” for giving the MLB cold feet about having the All-Star Game in Atlanta. “It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan political politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives,” he wrote, adding that the state would no longer lobby to host major MLB events — Globe Life Field hosted National League playoff games and the World Series last season.
Leaving aside the fact that Abbott is a politician decrying “partisan political politics” with an announcement that appears both partisan and political, his refusal to participate in today’s home opener should actually have the side effect of removing some of the politics from today’s festivities. This is admittedly a hard thing to do. President Joe Biden has already called the Rangers’ decision to open the stadium to full capacity at a time when COVID-19 is still very much circulating “a mistake.” And the Rangers’ choice to invite for today’s first pitch the man who made this reopening possible could, correctly or not, be seen as political.
The governor was scheduled to be joined on the field today by “several frontline heroes,” according to the Rangers. Now that he’s out, they will presumably take the mound unaccompanied by any politicians. The team will instead be honoring the healthcare workers, teachers, and first responders who have endured more than most of us over the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That feels right, regardless of whether it is “a mistake” to welcome so many fans to the ballpark today.