Denver mayor: MLB All-Star game would put city’s 'progressive voting system' front and center

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Major League Baseball (MLB) announced it will host its 2021 All-Star game in Denver this summer, just days after pulling the game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new voting rights bill.

"Major League Baseball is grateful to the Rockies, the City of Denver and the State of Colorado for their support of this summer’s All-Star Game," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "We appreciate their flexibility and enthusiasm to deliver a first-class event for our game and the region. We look forward to celebrating our sport’s best players and entertaining fans around the world.”

The decision follows aggressive lobbying from Denver officials, who pitched the league on their experience hosting past All-Star events, and their ability to move quickly, with just three months to go before the summer classic.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance on Monday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he sees the event as much more than an opportunity to host fans at Coors Field, and lift struggling businesses.

“We're proud to welcome it and to talk about the progressive voting system in Denver, that is bent on making sure no one, no one is abridged from their right to vote,” he said. “We'll put that on display, but more importantly we can demonstrate to Major League Baseball that we are prepared and ready to host [the All-Star game] in July, if they still choose us.”

Denver joined a handful of other cities, including Baltimore and Milwaukee, in pitching to host the event after the MLB withdrew the game from Atlanta, to protest Georgia's controversial new election law. Critics have argued it targets people of color, by making it harder to vote in the state’s underserved communities.

The move, seen as a warning shot to 43 states considering restrictive voting bills, thrust the MLB and its commissioner at the center of the political debate.

On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he will not throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener in protest of the MLB’s move, just hours before the start of the game.

"I was looking forward to throwing out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers' home opening game until @MLB adopted what has turned out to be a false narrative about Georgia's election law reforms. It is shameful that America's pastime is being influenced by partisan politics," said Abbott.

Major corporations have also been under pressure to take sides on the issue. Last week, dozens of prominent Black executives signed a letter, calling on companies to fight back against pending voting rights legislation. On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Coca-Cola (KO) released statements condemning the Georgia law after customers and activists criticized the employers for refusing to take a stronger stance.

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2020 file photo Denver Mayor Michael Hancock makes a point during a news conference in Denver. A number of American political leaders have been caught preaching one thing on the coronavirus and doing another. Hancock flew to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his family after urging others to stay home. He later said he was thinking with
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock makes a point during a news conference in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski,File)

Hancock said the city’s marketing department and Downtown Denver Partnership group team had been on the phone with the MLB “all weekend long” planning out logistics for a potential event, to demonstrate the city’s readiness.

“We have hosted the [MLB] All-Star game here before. We also hosted the NBA All-Star game. So, we certainly know what it takes to pull it off,” Hancock said.

The issue over voting rights is a personal one for Hancock, who headed the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, between 1998 to 2003. As a city councilman in 2006, he helped navigate the city through an election “debacle” that included software glitches at new voting centers and broken down absentee ballot counting. Hancock said city leaders collectively “went through a process to redesign and to build what I think is one of the most innovative progressive voting systems in the country.”

He’s eager to show off the voting system, with Denver now hosting the game.

“We really believe that we have come out at the forefront and we'll continue to try to innovate, make sure that on the basis of the value of accessibility that that's number one,” Hancock said. “If asked about it [we] are more than happy to put on display, and to talk about the very values of making sure that we never abridge an individual's right to access the ballot. You don't restrict it."

This article has been updated, it was originally published on April 5, 2021.

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita