Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp praised the Augusta National Golf Club for not caving to the political pressures that have befallen the state recently.
“I personally applaud the Masters for not getting involved in politics,” Kemp told CNBC’s Seema Mody in an interview that aired Friday, noting there are “growing calls by activists that are trying to pressure people” in sports.
Kemp’s comments came as Augusta National hosted this year’s Masters golf tournament, which started on Thursday. The event took place after the Republican governor signed last month an election bill that critics say disproportionately disenfranchises voters of color.
“I don’t appreciate the position they’ve taken,” Kemp said. “They could simply stand up and have some backbone until the activists that are putting money in their pockets, while hard work and Georgians are getting hurt by the decision of Major League Baseball.”
MLB did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday that the right to vote is fundamental to a democratic society. However, Ridley refrained from saying whether he supports or opposes Georgia’s new law.
Decisions by major sports entities like those from MLB and Augusta National also have massive economic implications.
“Anytime thousands and hundreds of thousands of people swarm into the city, that certainly trickles itself down into our tiny little neighborhood, and then we see the economic benefits of that,” Alphonzo Cross, owner of Parlor Cocktail Den in Atlanta, told CNBC. He also said he’s trying to figure out how to make up for the lost business from the All-Star Game.
Some economists estimate the city’s losses from losing the All-Star Game could reach around $10 million.
In Augusta — 150 miles east of Atlanta — businesses have a much more positive outlook. Augusta officials expect the golf tournament to bring in at least $50 million. Heather Chancey, owner of the Mexican grill Cantina Locale, told CNBC that her business has seen an increase this week “probably to the tune of 60 to 75%.”