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Leave The MLB Alone: Holding Accountability Is Not The Same As Cancel Culture

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Besides my hometown’s basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, I’ve never been one to actively tune in to sports and follow the latest happenings within the industry. The rules, the players, the drama — the fact that I had no personal stake in either of these things made it difficult for me to hold attention for more than a few minutes. 

The closest I’ll probably get to actively following anything sports-related was my interest in Major League Baseball (MLB) when the league announced its decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game and 2021 MLB Draft from the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park in Georgia amidst the state’s passing of a new voting law. Among other things, this legislation would extend early voting to two Saturdays instead of one, require voters to show an approved I.D. for both in-person and mail-in voting, restrict the time frame for submitting ballots as an absentee voter and reduce the run-off election period from nine weeks to four. 

In response, many Democrats criticized the law and claimed that its passing would increase voter suppression, especially among minorities. Consequently, the MLB’s decision to pull its events from Georgia rubbed Republicans the wrong way, with Gov. Bryce Kemp stating that “Cancel culture and partisan actions are coming for your business.” Gov. Kemp called out the MLB for succumbing to public pressure, under the guise that the organization is wrong for pulling out of a city whose local restaurants and businesses were dependent on the games to boost their sales.

But Gov. Kemp, is it really cancel culture though? Or are you giving in to the temptation of equating the act of holding people and institutions accountable as a manifestation of cancel culture — a term with a negative connotation, in order to divert attention away from the real issues at play?

“Cancel culture” is a problematic term because it comes with the underlying idea that internet addicts are too sensitive to an action and are quick to outcast people for doing seemingly harmless crimes. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, “canceled” figures usually aim to fix their reputation instead of working on why they were canceled in the first place. 

Voting rights are no laughing matter. Everyone that has taken standard history courses knows that marginalized communities had to advocate for their own enfranchisement in the face of authorities who were restricting their voices. As a nationally-regarded organization, the MLB has the platform to advocate for issues that might be swept under the rug. The sphere of influence of baseball is immense, and it’s refreshing to see a well-known establishment risking its name, brand and reputation to abide by its moral compass. 

In other established areas like the entertainment industry, stars such as David Dobrik, James Charles, and J.K. Rowling sent fans in a frenzy when they were revealed to have condoned rape, sent sexually explicit texts to minors and made anti-trans comments, respectively. Dobrik, Charles and Rowling, among many other well-known figures, are lumped into one big umbrella term of being “canceled.” 

However, dubbing people’s horrified reactions to these acts as merely a manifestation of cancel culture is dangerous. It seeks to undermine the very real consequences of their harmful actions — cancel culture and holding people and institutions accountable are two different things. While the former is often equated to a group of people denouncing people, brands and companies for something seemingly trivial, accountability is different as it advocates for change and sends a message that doing certain things is not okay; gone are the days when people can get away with doing terrible things just because they have power. 

With that being said, the issue of Georgia’s voting legislation isn’t as black and white as making transphobic comments or condoning rape. Like all things in politics, it is a complex issue that warrants a discussion of its own. Undoubtedly, there will be many arguments for and against this new law. 

While Gov. Kemp’s concerns on how the MLB’s decision to move its festivities out of the state would negatively affect the businesses that were relying on it is a valid one, there are certainly better ways to handle this issue than release a public statement disregarding the organization’s concerns. His comments about the MLB don’t accomplish anything except paint him as a close-minded politician. Instead, he should explain why the law would benefit Georgians and keep himself accountable in that way. 

In the age of communication, using our voices to influence political actors is one of the best methods to get their attention, and the MLB is no exception. The MLB announced on April 5 that Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies in Denver, will be the new host for the 2021 All-Star Game. As a recently naturalized citizen who just voted in her first election, I can now say I have reason to follow along with the MLB’s next moves and anticipate their responses in future political happenings.  

Angelene Obedoza is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at obedozaa@uci.edu.