Arizona, Georgia Double-Team on Woke Sports

April 12, 2021

It'll be months before Major League Baseball knows how much its decision to move Atlanta's All-Star Game cost them financially. Fortunately, Americans won't have to wait nearly that long to understand how much it hurt the MLB politically. Thanks to Governor Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), they already know. If the goal of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his liberal pals was to scare other states into submission, Arizona's new law makes it quite clear: he's already failed.

U.S. sports leagues have held an over-important place in our political debates for years. But after overplaying their hand over Georgia's election law, that might finally be changing. To a lot of conservatives' relief, the MLB's decision to punish Atlanta didn't just backfire -- it sparked a nationwide movement. Republican leaders in other states, who've been held hostage by the threats of woke groups like the NCAA for too long, have finally decided to tell the country's sports leagues to take a hike. If the NFL wants to try the same playbook in Arizona that the MLB did in Georgia, Ducey says good luck.

People inside football warned him that his 2023 Super Bowl might be on the line if he signed his state's election reforms. "I report to the people of Arizona and not a major sports league," he fired back. "And I'm going to make decisions on the policies that are put in front of me." His decision, as it turns out, was a good one. On Friday, Ducey inked his name to a significant election law that stops radical donors like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg from interfering in the state's elections. When reporters pointed out the possible backlash from the NFL and NCAA (which is slated to host the Final Four in Arizona in 2023), he refused to be dissuaded by fear.

"I think Major League Baseball made a big mistake," Ducey said. "I'd like to keep politics out of baseball. That's how I'd prefer it." And what about March Madness or the biggest event in the NFL, reporters asked? "I'm going to sign good policy, okay?" he replied. The days of deciding legislation based on what a radical sports organization would do -- at least in Arizona -- are over. As far as Ducey and Kemp are concerned, the integrity of our elections, not to mention the future prospects of conservatives in elections, are too important to sacrifice over a handful of tournament games.

As FRC's Ken Blackwell -- a minority owner in the Cincinnati Reds -- pointed out on Fox, MLB's Manfred got "way out over his skis on this." "He condemned some common-sense reforms that are pretty commonplace throughout other cities -- and he bought into the narrative that these reforms were suppressive and repressive. And now what he's starting to realize was that he didn't do his homework, and he led baseball [into] a $100 million dollar catastrophe that is spinning back and hurting people..." And in the process, he might have destroyed any leverage major sports have in the states as the ultimate carrot and stick.

As for the "good policy" Ducey signed, Arizona did what every state should be doing and stopped private, third-party donations from interfering in the election process. "With public confidence in our elections in peril, it's clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach..." he explained. That was not the case in 2020, a new analysis from the Foundation for Government Accountability shows. About 60 percent of the state, which was pivotal to Joe Biden's victory, received grants from Zuckerberg's Center for Civic and Tech Life, prompting all kinds of questions about what kind of "get-out-the-vote" operation the Left's known champion was running. Those suspicions reached a fevered pitch late last month when it was discovered that in nine of the counties where the Facebook CEO invested, Democrats saw an unusually high turnout.

"Biden won five of the state's 15 counties on November 3," the Daily Signal explains. "In four of the Biden-carried counties that received the grants, the number of Democratic voters increased by 36 percent or more." In Maricopa County, Democratic turnout was 48 percent higher -- jumping from 703,000 to 1.04 million. Compare that, analysts say, to the one county Biden won that didn't get the Zuckerberg funding: Democratic turnout only increased by 12 percent.

This is even fishier, the foundation's Trever Carlsen explains, when you look at 2016's statistics. "[Donald] Trump was able to increase his vote total by almost 250,000 votes [in Maricopa County], but miraculously, Biden was able to exceed [Hillary] Clinton's performance by 337,000 or so," Trevor told The Daily Signal. "That was enough to make up the difference." It's an "interesting comparison when you look at the five counties, four of which got the money and one that didn't, how Democratic turnout fared."

Interesting is one way to put it -- disturbing is another. Just how many votes were the direct result of Zuckerberg's influence in those counties and thousands of others across the country in last fall's election? "This makes dark money look like a bright day," Republican State Senator J.D. Mesnard argued on behalf of the bill that would ban this kind of third-party influence. "We should be proactively stopping [this] before it becomes embedded in America's election system," he insisted. Thanks to the courage of Republicans like Brian Kemp and Doug Ducey, more states are. But if we care about free and fair elections, they should be just the beginning.