By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Major League Baseball on Monday opposed a demand by a conservative small business group that it return next month's All-Star Game to Atlanta, after moving the game in response to Georgia's restrictive new voting law.
MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred accused the Job Creators Network of "political theatrics" in filing a $1 billion lawsuit over their decision to move the July 13 game to Denver's Coors Field from Truist Park outside Atlanta.
The defendants said the group could not show its members were injured or denied their civil rights, and said moving the game served the public interest by protecting baseball's ability to "demonstrate its values as a sport."
Howard Kleinhendler, a lawyer for Job Creators Network, said MLB had wrongly ignored how its decisions had hurt the group's members. "Small businesses in Georgia certainly don't feel as if JCN's lawsuit is 'political theatrics,'" he said in a statement.
Baseball's players union and its Executive Director Tony Clark, both named as co-defendants, also opposed a preliminary injunction to move the game back to Atlanta, and said they had no role in deciding where it should be played.
MLB and the union made their arguments in filings in Manhattan federal court. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni.
Signed in March by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia's voting law added identification requirements for absentee ballots, limited drop boxes, and made it a crime to give water and food to people waiting on line to vote. [nL1N2LN2IO}
Opponents have said the law was designed to suppress voting by Blacks.
In its May 31 complaint, Job Creators Network said MLB's actions violated a 150-year-old law designed to combat the Ku Klux Klan, and demanded a $100 million fund for harmed Georgia businesses.
MLB countered by quoting the group's President Alfredo Ortiz as saying on June 1 that if the fund were established, it would be "fine" if the All-Star Game were not returned to Atlanta.
The case is Job Creators Network v Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-04818.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)