Group Sues Major League Baseball Over Atlanta All-Star Game Move, But Will It Work?

An organization that represents small businesses across the country, including in Metro Atlanta, is suing Major League Baseball following the league’s decision to relocate next month’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.

Job Creators Network says baseball acted “illegally” and “hypocritically” in April when it relocated July’s All-Star Game away from Truist Park in response to the state’s new voting laws. The lawsuit was filed this week in the Southern District of New York.

JCN, which was started by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, claims Atlanta-area businesses will lose out on more than $100 million. The group wants baseball to move the game back to Atlanta or else — pay. The lawsuit also seeks $1 billion in punitive damages.

“They don’t have a right to do what they’ve done,” said JCN spokesperson Elaine Parker of baseball’s decision. “They don’t have a right to dictate to states what laws should be passed and they don’t have a right to hurt small businesses in the way they’ve done.”

No individual businesses are listed as parties in the lawsuit. But Parker says the head of a minority-owned Atlanta-based limousine service reached out to them.

“He was very excited to get his employees back out there, he was expecting, frankly, a windfall from this game and now he’s not going to see it,” Parker said. “It’s not just this game that they’ve lost, he’s very worried about future events coming to Atlanta.”

Parker disputes the notion that baseball should be treated as a private company because of the way stadiums are often taxpayer-funded, plus other tax breaks.

“Essentially, you’ve got to think of MLB as what they call a ‘state actor’ and in essence they become like a government because they take those government funds,” Parker said.

WABE legal analyst Page Pate calls the lawsuit a “press release filed in federal court” and says the lack of specifics in the lawsuit will make it tough to prove before a jury.

“Every single legal claim that’s in this lawsuit has absolutely no standing,” Pate said. “And even if they had standing, they really aren’t able to point to any particular damages that the court could address.”

Pate says if a company had entered into a direct contract with the MLB to provide services surrounding the game, they might have a legitimate claim. But he sees no evidence presented so far.

“It is simply a business decision,” he said. “I cannot see any contract that was violated, and it is borderline ludicrous to claim that this is an equal protection violation or a violation of federal Civil Rights law.”

Among other things, Georgia’s new voting law adds ID requirements for absentee voting, reduces the number of drop boxes in large metro counties and allows the State Election Board with the power to take over local elections with a history of problems.

Supporters like Gov. Brian Kemp and the Republican legislators who passed the bill claim it expands access to voting — but it does so mainly in smaller counties.

The bill was signed into law just months after Democrats carried the presidential vote in the state for the first time in decades and shifted control of the U.S. Senate following runoff races in January swept by Democrats.