WASHINGTON — President Biden said on Wednesday that he would “strongly support” Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta after the executive director of the players’ union said he was open to discussing such a move after Georgia Republicans passed a law last week to restrict voting access in the state.
“The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports,” Mr. Biden said in an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” the night before opening day. “And it’s just not right.”
His comments came on the same day that major companies like Delta Air Lines, Georgia’s largest employer, sharply criticized the legislation in the face of mounting pressure from activists, customers and Black executives. The law introduced stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting and limited drop boxes in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and it expanded the legislature’s power over elections.
“This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia,” Mr. Biden told Sage Steele of ESPN.
The All-Star Game is scheduled for July 13 in Atlanta.
In the interview, the president also encouraged baseball fans to wear masks and abide by social-distancing protocols. While spectators are required to wear masks at every ballpark, policies have differed depending on the guidelines of each city or state. The Texas Rangers plan to open their stadium, in Arlington, to full capacity, allowing about 40,300 fans to fill in.
“I think it’s a mistake. They should listen to Dr. Fauci and the scientists and the experts,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert. “But I think it’s not responsible.”
While states are rapidly expanding access to coronavirus vaccines, the country is a long way from herd immunity, or the point when 70 to 90 percent of the population acquires resistance to infection and transmission of the virus slows. Cases are also on the rise: Over the past week, there has been an average of more than 64,000 cases per day, an increase of 17 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database.
On Monday, Mr. Biden called for governors and mayors to reinstate mask mandates. The administration has also been working to combat vaccine hesitancy in minority communities as well as among conservatives in rural areas, with an advertising campaign and by relying on community leaders to promote the benefits of the coronavirus vaccine.
Asked what he would say to athletes who are hesitant to be vaccinated, Mr. Biden said: “I’m president of the United States. I got vaccinated.”
“Would I take the vaccination, the vaccine, if I thought it was going to hurt me?” he added.
Dr. Fauci said on Sunday in an interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS that he expected pandemic restrictions to relax as the baseball season progressed.
But while fans will flock to stadiums on Thursday, Mr. Biden will not be throwing the first pitch at any ballparks.
“I know the president is eager to get out to Nationals Stadium,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday. “Many beautiful days, many beautiful baseball games ahead this spring.”
It turned out those fans had heard both the plea to abide by social-distancing guidelines and support for a potential protest of the Georgia law.
“Players are very much aware” of the recent voting restrictions, Tony Clark, the executive director of the M.L.B. Players Association, told The Boston Globe. “As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation.”