AUSTIN, Texas - Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia's recent controversial voter law is sparking calls for other organizations to do the same but in Texas.
Just recently, Senate Bill 7, dubbed the Election & Ballot Security bill, passed the Texas Senate in the early hours Thursday and is now on its way to the Texas House.
SB 7 would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-through voting, and increase access for partisan poll watchers, including allowing them to shoot video of the ballot counting process. The original bill draft would have also required proof of disability to qualify for mail-in voting, however, that provision was later removed.
"Since Texas Republicans insist on pushing Jim Crow voter suppression efforts, the NCAA basketball tournament should insist on pulling next year’s first and second-round games out of Fort Worth and San Antonio," said Ed Espinoza, executive director at Progress Texas in a release. "The NCAA can join American Airlines, Dell, Microsoft, and Southwest Airlines and send a message to Texas lawmakers: we won’t stand for voter suppression."
According to the NCAA's men's basketball calendar, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and the University of Texas at San Antonio in San Antonio are currently set to hold preliminary rounds in 2022, and Houston and San Antonio are set to host the national championship games in 2023 and 2025 respectively.
The NCAA has previously pulled games due to controversial legislation. In 2016, the NCAA relocated seven previously awarded championship events from North Carolina over the since-repealed HB 2, a law that required transgender people to use public bathrooms that conform to the sex on their birth certificate.
So far, several prominent businesses in Texas have spoken out against Texas's election laws, including SB 7.
The relocation of high-profile sports events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the U.S.The NFL originally awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK Holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.
The NBA first scheduled its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, then shifted it in July 2016 because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017, and the 2019 All-Star Game was held in Charlotte.
NCAA officials decided in 2001 to ban awarding championship sites in advance to states that displayed the Confederate flag but did not alter events whose sites were determined by seeding or ranking. That was expanded last June to prevent any NCAA championship event from being played where the flag had a prominent presence. Mississippi's governor signed a law less than two weeks later to retire the flag.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.