After Major League Baseball’s (MLB) recent decision to relocate its 13 July All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest over Georgia's GOP-backed updated election law, the sports organisation has made headlines by signing a deal with one of China’s largest tech companies, Tencent, reported Fox News.
The new deal, signed on 31 March, grants Tencent rights to stream MLB games in a number of Asian countries until 2023.
A previous deal penned in 2018 granted Tencent streaming rights for 125 MLB games within China.
However, news of the move triggered backlash, as the Chinese firm is known for having briefly dropped National Basketball Association (NBA) games in 2019 after former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey publicly voiced support for protesters in Hong Kong.
The US and its allies have accused the Chinese government of cracking down on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong in 2019, with Beijing responding by urging Washington to mind its own business and suggesting that the protests were a foreign-backed attempt to spark a revolution.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio slammed the move on Twitter, claiming MLB had “caved to pressure” from sponsors and owners.
Dear GOP:@MLB caves to pressure & moves draft & #AllStarGame out of Georgia on the same week they announce a deal with a company backed by the genocidal Communist Party of #China— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 2, 2021
Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & anti-trust? https://t.co/GWToVhAZvW
While the league claimed it had sought players’ feedback in its Friday announcement to pull the Georgia game, it is not altogether evident whether officials had warned the athletes of the impending final decision before announcing it.
Some, like Aubrey Huff, a former MLB player, believed that players and other team employees were "blindsided" by the move.
I feel bad for the vast majority of @MLB players that love America in regards to this blindsided decision by Rob Manfred.— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) April 3, 2021
But I won’t feel bad for you if you don’t speak up as a group soon on this decision to leave Georgia.
Right now your conservative base is fucking done.
Coming on the heels of the decision to pull the All-Star Game out of the Peach State, announced on 2 April, news of the deal with Tencent raised concerns regarding whether the league was driven by ‘moral’ considerations or striving for maximum profits.
In protest against the revised Georgia election law, which Democrats have decried as ostensibly amounting to voter suppression, Major League Baseball announced on Friday that the organisation would pull its All-Star Game out of Atlanta.
"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," league commissioner Rob Manfred had said, adding that the move was "the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport."
MLB’s 2021 All-Star Game is out of Atlanta.— Alex Krutchik (@AlexKrutchikCJN) April 2, 2021
Rob Manfred’s full statement⬇️ pic.twitter.com/0nnQ7Tiihq
In response, Peach State Gov. Brian Kemp (R) defended his state's new voting law, saying the new restrictions were “worth” boycotts and lawsuits.
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of who we are as a state and a nation. Secure, accessible, fair elections are worth the threats. They are worth the boycotts as well as the lawsuits,” Kemp said at a press conference on Saturday.
“We will not be intimidated, and we will also not be silenced. Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the left, but I am not, and we are not as Georgians,” added the Georgia governor.
The new legislation, which took effect last month in Georgia, introduces voter identification requirements for absentee ballots to rule out “dead” votes being counted, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, as well as incriminates offering voters food and drink as they queue ahead of ballot casting.
Kemp and other Republicans maintain that the new law seeks to ensure election security, in the wake of voter fraud allegations repeatedly voiced by ex-President Donald Trump throughout the November 2020 election, which he lost to his Democratic rival – Joe Biden.
No proof of widespread fraud was found after three certifications of Georgia’s election results in November.