Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Rangers have announced plans to fill Globe Life Field to 100 percent capacity this season.
President Joe Biden thinks they are making a mistake.
During an interview with ESPN that aired Wednesday night, Biden stressed the importance of masks, vaccines and safety protocols for MLB as it enters opening day. He was blunt while assessing the Rangers' full-stadium plan:
"Well, that's a decision they made. I think it's a mistake," Biden said. "They should listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists and the experts. But I think it's not responsible."
The full interview can be seen here:
The Rangers remain the lone team to announce plans for 100-percent capacity crowds, but it's unlikely they will be alone by the end of the season, or even the All-Star break. Other leagues have interest in doing the same; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he hopes to see every team with full stadiums when the NFL season begins in September.
While many health experts have expressed concern about the Rangers' 100 percent capacity announcement, the team has moved forward thanks to a decision by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to reopen the state with no restrictions.
The Rangers held their first game with 100 percent capacity allowed at Globe Life Field on Tuesday. Only 12,911 spectators (Globe Life Field capacity: 40,000) showed up for a spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Vaccines have been another issue for MLB teams, which have seen certain players express hesitance in getting the COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons. The same issue has been seen in the NBA. MLB has tried to incentivize both players and teams to get everyone vaccinated, offering to loosen restrictions for players who are fully vaccinated and teams who reach 85 percent of Tier 1 employees being fully vaccinated.
Biden says he hopes players will listen to the league:
When asked how he would advise players who might feel hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Biden said: "I would say I'm President of the United States and I got vaccinated. I don't have an unimportant job. Would I take the vaccine if I thought it was going to hurt me? We have done incredible research on the vaccines and they have shown that they work. We have to get to the point where enough people have taken the vaccine so we diminish the possibility for it to spread."
Biden would 'strongly support' MLBPA response to Georgia voter law
President Biden also addressed Georgia's controversial voting law, which was signed into law last week and introduced several new restrictions on voters. Opponents, including Biden, have slammed the bill as a civil rights outrage.
Biden doubled down on his description of the bill as "Jim Crow in the 21st Century," and said he would "strongly support" a decision by the MLB Players Association to protest the law. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark signaled the union would be open to a discussion about pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta.
"People look to them," Biden said, referring to professional athletes and their outsized platforms. "They're leaders. Look at what happened with the NBA, as well. Look what's happened across the board. The very people who were victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these various sports, and it's just not right. This is Jim Crow on steroids what they're doing in Georgia and 40 other states. What's it all about? Imagine passing a law saying you cannot provide water or food for someone standing in line to vote. Can't do that? Come on. Or you're going to close the polling place at 5 o'clock when people just get off? This is all about keeping working folks that I grew up with from being able to vote."
It should be noted that the bill does not make it illegal for poll workers to provide food or water to someone standing in line, nor does it call for polls to close at 5 p.m. Pre-election day polls can stay open until 7 p.m.; election day polls are open to 9 p.m.
The NBA made a similar move back in 2016 when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte after North Carolina passed its infamous bathroom bill, which required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. The All-Star Game eventually went back to Charlotte in 2019 after a partial repeal of the bill.
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