AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
On November 2nd, most political observers and media pundits were laser-focused on the elections taking place throughout the country. But in Houston, another event with widespread cultural and, this year, political significance was also taking place as the Atlanta Braves celebrated their first World Series Championship in 26 years. As the contingent of Braves fans on hand gathered along the third base line seats to watch manager Brian Snitker hoist The Commissioner’s Trophy, the actual commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, took the stage to congratulate the team. Before he could even begin to speak, a chorus of boos rained down on him from the stands.
Manfred had to have known it was coming after his handling of the controversy over the All-Star Game earlier this summer. But while the Braves faithful, baseball fans in general, Atlanta residents, and indeed all rational Americans have good reason to loathe Manfred, there were signs in the days leading up to the World Series that baseball’s capitulation to the woke mob may not be as complete as previously thought, perhaps revealing cracks in the radical left’s iron grip on corporate America and the country’s leading cultural and sporting institutions.
In April, Manfred announced that the MLB would be pulling its All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new election security law. Democrats claimed the legislation, which implemented popular election integrity measures like Voter ID while also expanding access to absentee voting and mail-in ballots, amounted to “Jim Crow 2.0,” while Republicans pointed out that the law would actually make it easier to vote in Georgia than many liberal states.
Denver was eventually chosen as the new site for the All-Star Game. By that time, the hullabaloo over the Georgia law had died down once people realized that maybe the law wasn’t actually racist, and the left had moved on to the next “existential crisis” supposedly threatening American democracy. But while Georgia’s new voting law isn’t hurting Black Americans, the MLB’s decision to pull the All-Star Game certainly did, costing Black-owned businesses in Atlanta tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
Much to the delight of Atlanta fans, however, and likely much to the chagrin of Rob Manfred, Atlanta would not be denied a major sporting event this year, as the Braves put together one of the more impressive second half season finishes in recent memory, bringing the World Series to A-Town. Manfred couldn’t avoid questions about the decision to move the All-Star Game in his press conference before Game 1, where he was reluctantly forced to address the controversy.
“We have always tried to be apolitical,” Manfred said at the time, adding that “obviously, there was a notable exception this year.” However, and this is the key part, Manfred went on to say that “I think our desire is to try and avoid another exception to that general rule.”
That is a telling statement – it’s as close as someone of Manfred’s power and stature will ever get to admitting that they were wrong. There was none of the moralizing about voting rights that had characterized his statements in the spring. There was no attempt to defend the decision on the merits. Instead, the Commissioner was eager to pretend the whole thing was a regrettable occurrence that is best forgotten.
Manfred also declined to issue a rebuke of the Braves’ Native American iconography and traditional “Tomahawk Chop” chant. Both had come under fire from many of the same left-wing voices that had before helped get the All-Star Game moved from Atlanta. Manfred said only that “the Native American community in the region is fully supportive of the Braves program, including the chop… for me, that’s kind of the end of the story.”
This shift in tone and sudden willingness to push back against the woke ideologues who have infiltrated every aspect of American culture from big business to baseball suggests a far more significant development than simply one sports league commissioner deciding he has had enough. It’s important here to remember that professional sports are, at the end of the day, businesses. Ultra-rich billionaires buy and sell teams to turn a profit, just like any other large corporation. The job of the commissioner is to act as the public face of the league, bearing the brunt of public criticism so that team owners don’t have to. When it comes down to it, Rob Manfred has one mandate as commissioner: keep the owners happy.
It’s therefore absurd to think that Manfred would have made the call to move the All-Star Game without buy-in from the owners. Just as other corporations like Coca Cola and Delta Airlines succumbed to the woke mob and bought in to the left-wing hysteria over the Georgia law, so too did the MLB owners, a reflection of the common corporate ethos inside the C-suite of many teams across the league.
Now, as Manfred appears more subdued—even chastised—when he’s asked about pressure from left-wing groups, it’s also undoubtedly with the interests of the owners in mind. In Manfred’s slight annoyance with such questions, we might also see the weariness of the owners with submitting to left-wing social politics. Baseball thus might, might just be the first corporate structure where we find signs that those at the top no longer see the utility in humoring the left’s radical social justice crusades. Maybe conservatives’ appeals to reason have hit home, or maybe the radical left’s superciliousness has simply become too much. Either way, there is reason for hope.
It is of course possible that this is all a façade, and the next time the woke mob directs their wrath at the MLB, Manfred and the team owners will once again crumple and pay tribute to whatever cause célèbre has captured the left’s attention that week. The league had already taken a hard left turn before its activism this summer, and America’s pastime is today hardly free of political influence. But as the rest of the country seems to finally be taking a stand against the scare tactics and general ridiculousness of left-wing identity politics, perhaps the MLB can also reject the woke corporatism that has infected seemingly every major American institution.
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