USA Today edits Stacey Abrams op-ed published before MLB pulled game in Atlanta, waters down boycott support

The revision scrubs the line, 'I can’t argue with an individual’s choice to opt for their competition'

USA Today appeared to have bizarrely allowed retroactive edits of an op-ed written by prominent Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams in an effort to water down her previous justification for boycotts after MLB moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta

In a piece published on March 31, just days before the MLB announced that it was relocating its game due to the backlash over Georgia's election reform bill that was signed into law, Abrams seemed to defend the national response to what she called the "racist, classist" legislation. 

"The impassioned response to the racist, classist bill that is now the law of Georgia is to boycott in order to achieve change," Abrams originally wrote. "Events hosted by major league baseball, world class soccer, college sports and dozens of Hollywood films hang in the balance. At the same time, activists urge Georgians to swear off of hometown products to express our outrage. Until we hear clear, unequivocal statements that show Georgia-based companies get what’s at stake, I can’t argue with an individual’s choice to opt for their competition."

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She continued, "However, one lesson of boycotts is that the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable. Otherwise, those least resilient bear the brunt of these actions; and in the aftermath, they struggle to access the victory. And boycotts are complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action. I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts. But I don’t think that’s necessary — yet... I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you’re already here, stay and fight. Stay and vote."

The article was "updated" April 6, but Abrams' commentary went through quite the transformation. 

"The impassioned (and understandable) response to the racist, classist bill that is now the law of Georgia is to boycott in order to achieve change. Events that can bring millions of dollars to struggling families hang in the balance. Major League Baseball pulled both its All-Star Game and its draft from Georgia, which could cost our state nearly $100 million in lost revenue," Abrams' revisions read. "Rather than accept responsibility for their craven actions, Republican leaders blame me and others who have championed voting rights (and actually read the bill). Their faux outrage is designed to hide the fact that they prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians. To add to the injury, the failed former president is now calling for cancellation of baseball as the national pastime."

"Boycotts invariably also cost jobs. To be sustainable, the pain of deprivation must be shared rather than borne by those who are least resilient... I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts. But such monetary loss is unlikely to affect the stubborn, frightened Republicans who see voter suppression as their only way to win. Money isn’t quite as seductive as political power to these putative leaders. "

Her revised op-ed adds, "Instead of a boycott, I strongly urge other events and productions to do business in Georgia and speak out against our law and similar proposals in other states." 

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GOP strategist Matt Whitlock was the first to sound the alarm on the stealth edits that were made to Abrams' op-ed, which was being cited by media outlets attempting to "fact-check" Republicans accusing her of being supportive of boycotts.

"In a March 31 op-ed in USA Today, Abrams wrote that the advancement of civil rights relied on economic boycotts, but cautioned that there is a downside: 'Boycotts invariably also cost jobs. To be sustainable, the pain of deprivation must be shared rather than borne by those who are least resilient. They also require a long-term commitment to action,'" Politifact wrongly claimed Abrams said in the original op-ed. 

"Not over the fact that Stacey Abrams published an op-Ed about the Georgia law saying 'boycotts work,' and she wouldn’t blame anyone for boycotting.. Then AFTER the MLB move, STEALTH EDITED the op-Ed with stronger language opposing boycotts, and media have used it to defend her," Whitlock reacted. 

Whitlock also called out Twitter for "cementing" the narrative on its platform, which cited "journalists and fact-checkers" who defended the Democrat. 

"Twitter gave it an entire trending blurb, CITING the op-Ed she had edited after the MLB move to cement the narrative that the MLB move wasn’t her fault. That’s some Orwellian stuff," Whitlock wrote on Saturday.

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Pluribus editor Jeryl Bier was the first to point out on Friday that an editor's note was added to the Abrams piece in recent days, which read, "This column was originally published before the MLB moved the All-Star game out of Atlanta. It was updated after that decision."

A spokesperson for Gannett, USA Today's parent company, told Fox News, "We regret the oversight in updating the Stacey Abrams column. As soon as we recognized there was no editor’s note, we added it to the page to reflect her changes. We have reviewed our procedures to ensure this does not occur again."

Fox News had also asked Gannett if it regrets allowing revisions to Abrams' op-ed instead of preserving it as it was originally written, which was not addressed in the statement.