Last week, not long after after Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia’s draconian, “Big Lie”-inspired voting restrictions, Donald Trump took a swing at the game he once loved. “They’re woke, and woke is not good for our country,” the former president, who as a child rhapsodized about America’s pastime, said in a Newsmax interview. “I’m just not very interested in baseball for the last number of years.”
“You want to find a game, it’s on every channel, and yet you can’t find anything,” he explained. “I would say boycott baseball.”
He once played the game with relish and wrote poetry about it. It was only a couple weeks ago, in fact, that he cited Anthony Fauci’s inferior prowess on the mound as evidence he was right not to listen to the celebrated infectious disease expert about the COVID pandemic. But, either because baseball is on too many channels or because the MLB thinks it would be bad for business to ignore Georgia’s assault on voting rights, he now wants to cancel the game. It’s petty and ridiculous, like the many other fights he’s picked against the sporting world—and so it should be unsurprising that it would be picked up by the most petty and ridiculous sycophants in his party.
Following Trump’s lead, Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Mike Lee are railing against “woke” baseball, threatening to end the MLB’s antitrust exemption in retaliation for moving its summer classic to Colorado. “It did so based on a pile of lies,” Cruz told reporters Tuesday, referring to the MLB’s decision. “They decided to play politics with voting and elections in Georgia.” The three on Tuesday said they would work to revoke the carve-out from the Sherman Antitrust Act that the MLB has enjoyed for nearly a hundred years, arguing its decision “underscores that there’s no reason [MLB] should enjoy special subsidies.”
“This past month, we have seen the rise of the woke corporation,” Cruz said. “We have seen the rise of big business enforcing a woke standard.”
The issue here, of course, isn’t so much that baseball should continue to be exempted from antitrust laws, a matter that has long been controversial, but rather why these guys want to do it. No one on either side of the aisle will weep over the MLB or Delta Airlines, whose tax breaks Georgia Republicans are trying now to repeal as punishment for stating opposition to the voter suppression laws, losing their special treatment. Indeed, MLB has faced sharp criticism from the left in recent months, as well, with Bernie Sanders slamming Commissioner Rob Manfred for gutting its minor league system. But Republicans like Cruz and Hawley, the two most prominent and shameless proponents of Trump’s election fraud lies in the Senate, aren’t taking on baseball as a matter of policy—or even because they don’t like the broadcasts or whatever Trump’s problem is. They’re doing so simply out of retribution, like a pitcher throwing chin music at a batter who hit a home run off them their last time to the plate.
The brazen vindictiveness behind all this is unseemly in its own right. But especially galling here is the fact that these Republicans are accusing the corporations of doing precisely what they, themselves, are guilty of. “If you’re going to try to override the will of the people,” Hawley wrote in a tweet Tuesday, “you shouldn’t get taxpayer support for it.” But for all its sins, it wasn’t the MLB that leaned on Brad Raffensperger to try to literally overturn the will of the people in Georgia—it was Trump, with the support of people like Hawley! No matter how hard Trump and the GOP try to rewrite the history of the last election, the truth is that Trump lost to Joe Biden, his claims about voter fraud were complete bullshit, and the so-called “election integrity” laws Republicans in states across the country have or are working to enact are about one thing and one thing only: Helping an unpopular party with no ideas and a deranged reality television host in charge regain control of Washington, even if they represent fewer Americans.
That those antidemocratic efforts have prompted pushback from the corporate world, including hundreds of companies and executives signing a statement opposing “discriminatory legislation,” a copy of which was published Wednesday in the New York Times and Washington Post.
The corporate response says less about how “woke” big business has become and more about how grotesque laws like Georgia’s really are. The MLB likely doesn’t want to get involved in politics any more than the PGA wanted to pull one of its majors from Trump’s golf club after the January 6 riot—but the cost of business as usual, companies have calculated, is more than taking a stand. It’s not clear if the attempt to revoke the MLB’s golden goose will gain momentum more broadly within the GOP, where figures like Mitch McConnell see political speech from corporations differently when it is used against their party. But Cruz, Hawley, and Lee can be sure of one thing that their skipper will be pleased. “I think people are giving up on baseball anyway,” Trump told Newsmax last week. “I don’t think anybody cares.”
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