AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott will no longer throw the ceremonial first pitch at Monday’s Texas Rangers home opener, he said in a letter to the organization.
Citing a “false narrative to voter integrity laws” by Major League Baseball after the league moved its 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Gov. Abbott declined his invitation to throw the first pitch and said the state will not seek to host any subsequent All-Star Game or special event held by MLB.
Abbott threw out the first pitch at the first Rangers home game virtually in 2020 and was in Arlington when he tossed the first pitch in 2019.
MLB’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta came on the heels of Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature passing sweeping changes to election laws. Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that will require a photo ID to vote absentee by mail, shortens runoff elections from nine weeks to four and gives the State Elections Board new power to intervene in up to four counties at a time and install a temporary superintendent with the ability to hire and fire personnel including elections directors and poll officers.
It also makes it a misdemeanor to solicit votes or give away gifts including food or water within 150 feet of a polling location. According to PolitiFact, the law says:
No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is …
Republicans call the bill essential to “restore confidence in Georgia’s elections,” while Democrats say it’s voter suppression.
Abbott said in the letter to the Rangers organization that it “doesn’t diminish the deep respect” he has for them.
“It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives. This decision does not diminish the deep respect I have for the Texas Rangers baseball organization, which is outstanding from top to bottom. I wish the team great success this season,” the letter says.
The Rangers host the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field at 3:05 p.m. and are allowing fans in at 100% capacity. The Rangers are the only MLB team to allows fans in at full capacity for its home opener but will sell “distanced seating” for subsequent games and limit capacity that way.