Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declined an invitation to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener Monday afternoon, citing Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new election law.
Abbott complained that pro baseball was pushing a “false political narrative” by criticizing the Georgia law as a voter suppression effort instead of, as Republicans see it, a bid to improve election integrity.
“It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan political politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives,” Abbott told Neil Leibmann, the Rangers’ chief operating officer, in a letter the governor released publicly.
Abbott added that he will not participate in any future MLB-sponsored events and that the state would not work toward hosting the All-Star game “or any other MLB special events.”
Where will 2021 MLB All-Star Game be moved? 5 suggestions on short notice
The backlash against Georgia’s voting law is being closely watched in Texas, where Abbott and fellow Republicans are pushing legislation to increase criminal penalties for election fraud, beef up vote-by-mail restrictions and requirements, and ban drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling places, among other strategies.
Abbott said he had been looking forward to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Rangers’ home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, until baseball opted to move the July 13 All-Star Game and the major league draft, to be held in conjunction with the Midsummer Classic, from Atlanta.
State Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said efforts to change voting laws in Texas and Georgia are based on a different false narrative — the “Big Lie” that election fraud snatched victory from President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
“No one cares if Abbott throws out first pitch, but Arlington/DFW will def care if he interferes in efforts to attract economic opportunities like All-Star games,” Turner wrote on Twitter.
In announcing the sanctions against Georgia last Friday, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the action was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
With Abbott’s absence, the first-pitch duties will fall to Audrey Simmons, a fifth-grade science teacher from Dunn Elementary in Arlington. Simmons was among several “frontline heroes” chosen to accompany Abbott to the pitcher’s mound for the ceremonial toss, Rangers spokesman John Blake said.
Statesman reporter Kirk Bohls contributed to this report..
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Abbott declines Texas Rangers’ first pitch, citing MLB removal of All-Star Game from Georgia
(c)2021 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
Visit Austin American-Statesman, Texas at www.statesman.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.