A pro-business group filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Major League Baseball, claiming it had no right to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of Georgia’s restrictive voting law.
An Addison, Texas-based organization called Job Creators Network said “thousands of hard-working ordinary men and women in the Atlanta area” had been banking on proceeds from this year’s All-Star Game before: “Defendants took this all away in the blink of an eye.”
Two months ago, MLB announced it was pulling the All-Star Game from Truist Park, the Cobb County home of the Atlanta Braves, days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a host of Republican-backed restrictions, including requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line.
The lawsuit, filed in New York City where MLB headquarters is located, also named MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the MLB Players Association and union chief Tony Clark as defendants.
The civil suit is asking for $100 million in damages and a punitive award of up to $1 billion.
Job Creators Network calls itself a “nonpartisan organization whose mission is to educate employers and employees of Main Street America, in order to protect the 85 million people who depend on the success of small businesses.”
The group claimed it was victimized by the All-Star Game’s removal from Atlanta because it “had to divert resources to address the grave harm to its Atlanta-area members” and has had to “divert personnel from its fundraising efforts resulting in lower receipts.”
The organization said it was forced to take out ads in the New York Times and lease signs in Times Square to fight MLB and together “these costs amount to over $1.6 million.”
Jim Masteralexis, who teaches sports law at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, said local businesses near the Braves ballpark might have the most slim claim to injury by MLB — but not the plaintiff in this lawsuit.
“There’s no constitutional or statutory right to profit from an All-Star Game that’s played in the vicinity of your business,” Masteralexis told NBC News. “No one has breached a contract with you. No one has violated federal law.”
And under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, Masteralexis said defendants were well within their right to take baseball’s business away from Georgia: “Major League Baseball was actually exercising their constitutional right to speak on an important issue.”
The lawsuit even went as far as to invoke the Ku Klux Klan.
By moving the All-Star Game, defendants are violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 by hindering “Georgia’s duly elected government from ensuring equal protection of the laws,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also claimed MLB and the union are running afoul of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868 and guarantees the rights of all Americans following the end of slavery.
“It’s distasteful in that it’s a complete distortion of the KKK Act and what that act was intended to do,” said Nova Southeastern University law professor Robert Jarvis, who teaches a course on legal issues within baseball.
Jarvis, who co-wrote the textbook “Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials,” predicted the lawsuit would not be successful.
“This is the dumbest complaint I have ever read,” Jarvis told NBC News. “If this was turned in as a law school exam, you would have given it an F and counseled the student to find a different line of work.”
Throughout the civil complaint, plaintiff said the people of Cobb County suffered as a result of MLB’s actions. Cobb County is not a party to this lawsuit. A county spokeswoman declined comment on the civil action on Tuesday morning.
But hours later, Cobb County Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid issued a statement extolling her community’s business opportunities: “It will be up to the courts to determine if there is a legal harm that could require such a remedy. Despite the controversy, I hope MLB leadership recognizes that Cobb County remains an attractive place for business and recreation that also boasts strong diversity in its general population and elected leadership.”
A MLBPA spokesman also declined to discuss on the lawsuit on Tuesday, while MLB reps could not be immediately reached for comment.
The All-Star Game is now set to be played on July 13 at Coors Field in Denver.
In addition to the high-profile exhibition game — featuring top players of the National and American Leagues — the All-Star Game week includes a host of other events, including a celebrity softball game, the amateur draft, a minor league all-star game and home run derby.
The sweeping new restrictions came in the wake of two stunning elections that tilted the balance of power in Washington, D.C.
In November, Joe Biden became the first Democrat since 1992 to carry the presidential vote in Georgia. Biden won by about one-quarter of a percentage point, leading then-President Donald Trump to pressure Georgia officials to overturn those results.
Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has been largely credited with leading voter registration efforts in minority communities that have turned the once solid red state decidedly purple. She said the new restrictions amount to an act of voter suppression.