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August 2021

The MLB All-Star Game Abandons Georgia

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The African American Golf Expo Will Not

By Harvey Silverman

Billy Shaw was one of the kids I used to play pickup baseball with as a kid. Sometimes we only had a few kids, so we played a game where the batter had to choose his field to hit – either to the left or right of second base. Hit to the wrong side was an out. Regardless of the field Billy chose, he'd inevitably hit to the wrong side. He'd whine and cry about the rule and want it changed. So Billy recruited a bunch of bigger guys by lying about how our rules screwed him and ran us off the field so he could get his way.

Mr. Reier was my ninth-grade civics teacher. Besides introducing me to palindromes, he instilled in me the wonders of our democracy and, in particular, the inherent right and obligation of everyone to vote. We're not a self-governing republic without the freedom to choose and the uninhibited ability to have our voices heard in the voting process.
I've always tried to play by the rules and enjoy the satisfaction of excelling within whatever the rules allow. It's one of golf's great attributes and why golf teaches us so many life lessons. Generally, if the majority believe the rules are fair, they likely are.

Georgia's state legislature and governor decided to reform its voting laws under the pretext of ensuring free and fair elections. Those on the left objected while those on the right applauded. But then, Major League Baseball (MLB) pulled its All-Star game from Atlanta. Commissioner Rob Manfred issued this quote:

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred said. "Fair access to voting continues to have our game's unwavering support."

I wonder if Manfred had Mr. Reier as his Civics teacher?

Craig Kessler, Director of Government Affairs for the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA), and I discussed the possibility of attending the inaugural African American Golf Expo and Forum, Aug. 20-24 in, yes, Atlanta, Georgia. We're both eager to support organizer Jim Beatty's efforts and do what we can to expand golf's reach into the African American community. Craig and I teamed to author a two-part article about golf's diversity problems last August in the NGCOA Business Weekly. And the NGCOA is a sponsor of the event.

Craig and I quickly dismissed the thought of personally boycotting Georgia. In the time it took to tee up a golf ball on the first tee, we decided that support for the Expo far outweighed what negligible effect no Kessler or Silverman dollars would have on the state.

Would the African American Golf Expo pull up stakes and move to a friendlier venue? Major League Baseball yanked the prestigious All-Star Game scheduled in Atlanta ironically to honor the late, great Brave Hank Aaron. MLB relocated the game to Colorado, a state many election and political officials consider the "gold standard in US voting laws." 

My query found its way to Jim Beatty, organizer of the inaugural EXPO and Forum. Mr. Beatty's response displays strength, resolve and conviction, tinged with a bit of righteous defiance:

"While I am not in Georgia, my heart goes out to everyone in Georgia regarding this travesty. Now is not the time for Black people to retreat but to be prominent in our individual and collective efforts to showcase our genius and brilliance, not only for ourselves but to show the world. I would humbly suggest that the EXPO will do just that. The EXPO will allow the individuals attending and the companies sponsoring and exhibiting that it is right and just to support efforts and causes that promulgate opportunities for African Americans. It will clearly demonstrate to the governor and the ill-advised politicians who supported this backward legislation that efforts to promote African Americans and causes dear to us will not be stopped by anyone. We are not satisfied with a regressive attitude but embrace a progressive attitude in our thoughts and actions. That is what the EXPO and the people and companies that support it are saying with their involvement.

"So I am asking people and companies to step up their efforts and be intentional and vocal in their support of events and causes that impact African Americans not only in Georgia, but the nation. If that is defiance, then so be it. We are not putting our agenda on hold any further."

I expect that Mr. Beatty and others like him will mobilize the marginalized on both the left and the right to vote in massive numbers the next time polls open across the country. I plan to attend the African American Golf Expo and Forum, and so might Craig Kessler.

No matter the politics or change in voting laws, golf’s efforts appear to be pressing forward to effect change in the game of golf.

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