The commissioner of Major League Baseball committed an unforced error by stepping into the political protest over Georgia‘s election-integrity law, said one of the three living predecessors to have held his position.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred “made a serious mistake” in caving to activist pressure to pull the league’s summer All-Star Game and draft from Atlanta “[b]y rushing to do so without first protesting the substance of the law,” wrote former commissioner in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Vincent ran the league from 1989 to 1992.
His successor, Bud Selig, who held the reins for more than two decades, from 1992 to 2015, has not yet weighed in publicly on the move.
After offering a brief historical background on boycotts, Vincent wrote in his op-ed that Manfred sent mixed signals by taking such a drastic measure but only doing so in a cursory, symbolic way.
“Organizations like Major League Baseball have sometimes participated in public debates over policy,” he said.
“Moving directly to an economic sanction suggests that Mr. Manfred believed the Georgia law required drastic intervention,” he continued. “But consider what he didn’t do: He didn’t limit the number of home games the Atlanta Braves will play.”
Vincent said the likely result was that blue-collar workers in Atlanta would face the brunt of the economic impact from the decision, but it was unlikely to move the dial toward any positive political outcomes.
“The players will get paid no matter where the game takes place,” he wrote.
“MLB will get the same television revenue,” he added. “The only people hurt by Mr. Manfred’s decision will be Atlanta’s stadium workers and local vendors.”
In the meantime, Manfred may have strengthened the opposition with his failure to articulate a clear reason for objecting to the law.
“Mr. Manfred failed to spell out specific criticisms of Georgia’s voting law,” Vincent said. “Now he’s put himself in the awkward position of having to defend Colorado’s voting laws.”
Republican critics also used the opportunity to point out double-standards in the MLB’s business practices, such as a recent streaming deal with one of China’s largest tech companies, Tencent, despite its outspoken support for anti-democratic crackdowns in Hong Kong.
Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & anti-trust? https://t.co/GWToVhAZvW
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 2, 2021
Vincent said that his experience had taught him that baseball was much more to fans than simply a profit-making entity.
“They want the game to stand for the best and noblest of our national virtues,” he said.
“They see baseball as the repository of their dreams, even as they root for their favorite teams,” he added. “They don’t want, and won’t accept, anything that separates them from the game’s history and leadership.
Vincent cautioned that, due to its cultural significance, the league’s decision to alienate fans over politics had far greater implications than those of other corporate ventures that could change their minds on a whim to regain consumer support.
“Major League Baseball can’t become a weapon in the culture wars, a hostage for one political party or ideology,” he said.
“… Baseball must always stand above politics and its dark elements of corruption, greed and sordid selfishness,” he continued. “It can’t go wrong by standing for national greatness.”